The votes were close and mainly along party lines but both chambers of the Democrat-controlled Congress succeeded in adopting legislation (CNN) that calls on U.S.troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this year. Thursday’s Senate vote of 51-46, the day after the House vote, means the measure is now likely to reach President Bush next Tuesday. He has repeatedly vowed to veto the bill, which Republicans have equated with a surrender document.
An Iraqi government spokesman told the Associated Press the bill sends the “wrong signals” to parties in the conflict. But Democrats say they have American public opinion (PollingReport.com) and common sense on their side. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said the president was in a “state of denial” about the success of his surge strategy in Iraq and other leading Democrats criticized Bush for not taking the concerns of Americans seriously. The White House countered that Democrats were dangerously neglecting the consequences of a precipitous U.S. pullout.
The standoff highlights one of the strongest attempts in years by Congress to assert its war powers, an issue examined in this new Backgrounder. With the Democrats’ bill heading for a likely veto they cannot override, there are growing indications they could get behind a two-month supplemental bill (The Hill) while continuing efforts to alter administration policy. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CFR.org that if Congress fails to pass a “clean” supplemental spending bill soon, “I think it is very destructive for the country and increases the problems of the American military substantially.”
General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, on April 25 gave lawmakers from both parties a mixed account of progress in Iraq, saying sectarian killings were down but other violence is troubling. Bush has stressed that the surge is only partially under way and there have been indications it is working to secure Iraqi neighborhoods. CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot is also cautiously optimistic after a recent visit to Iraqi hotspots. He is impressed by the new strategy (Weekly Standard), writing that no longer are U.S. soldiers “simply speeding down streets in their armored Humvees hoping not to hit an IED [improvised explosive device].” Reuel Marc Gerecht, also writing in the Weekly Standard, says the U.S. military is “finally waging a counterinsurgency that makes sense: We are focusing our efforts on securing Iraqi lives and property.” But each stage of the U.S. domestic debate is clouded by grim reports from Iraq. The latest involved the worst attack on U.S. forces in nearly two years, with nine soldiers (IHT) killed by a suicide bomber in Diyala Province, where U.S. troops are more exposed under the new counterinsurgency strategy.