updated 7/5/2007 7:03:38 PM ET 2007-07-05T23:03:38

Sen. Pete Domenici on Thursday withdrew his support of President Bush’s Iraq war policy and embraced a proposal to bring home most troops by March.

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The longtime New Mexico senator is the latest of several Republican stalwarts who have abandoned Bush on Iraq in the past 10 days. They have urged a change sooner rather than later and further isolated the GOP president in his attempt to defend the unpopular war.

Last week, Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the U.S. should significantly reduce its military presence in Iraq while bolstering diplomatic efforts. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., this month is expected to propose a new approach.

With Congress on its July Fourth break, Domenici made his views known Thursday, though he said he has not talked to the administration about wanting a strategy shift.

“I have carefully studied the Iraq situation and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward,” he said.

“I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops,” Domenici said. “But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”

Supports bipartisan bill
Dominici was elected in 1972 and is a senior member of a panel that oversees defense spending. He said at a news conference that parents of those killed in Iraq previously told him the United States should stay in Iraq as long as it takes. Now, he said, some parents have asked him to do more to bring the troops home sooner.

The senator said the situation in Iraq is getting worse. He said he now supports a bipartisan bill that embraces the findings of the independent Iraq Study Group.

In December, the group said the primary mission of U.S. troops should evolve to supporting Iraqi security forces. The report also said the U.S. should reduce political, military or economic support for Iraq if the Baghdad government cannot make substantial progress.

The group said combat troops could be out by March 2008 if specific steps were taken.

The bill would make most of the group’s findings official U.S. policy. The measure is also backed by Sens. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday it was time Republicans backed up their words with action and voted to bring troops home. The Senate will vote this month on several anti-war proposals, including cutting off money for combat and ordering troop withdrawals in four months.

Domenici and other Republicans are expected to oppose such proposals, while Democrats say the Iraq Study Group bill does not go far enough.

Bush has been losing GOP support for his decision in January to send an additional 21,500 combat troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar province. Last weekend, the president called for patience as U.S. forces conduct stepped-up operations.

'Unwilling to continue'
The White House had thought it had until September, when military commanders are to give an assessment of Iraq. But as the public becomes more frustrated with the war and the 2008 elections grow closer, the political pressure has risen.

Most senators now believe troops should start coming home within the next few months. House Republicans want to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to review its findings.

When Bush announced his plan in January to send more troops to Iraq, Domenici said he was willing to give the plan a chance. But he added that his support would be based on whether the Iraqi government would meet its obligations under the plan.

“It is the Iraqi government that is failing to make even modest progress to help Iraq itself or to merit the sacrifices being made by our men and women in uniform,” Domenici said. “I am unwilling to continue our current strategy.”

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