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Hagel: Iraq resolution likely to pass next week

U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel said Thursday that he expects a compromise resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq to gain full Senate approval next week.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel said Thursday that he expects a compromise resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq to gain full Senate approval next week.

The Republican from Nebraska had worked with Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Joseph Biden, D-Del., on a draft resolution introduced last week that criticized Bush's plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Their nonbinding measure was competing with a less critical one sponsored by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and others.

The two sides came to an agreement Wednesday, although Warner had said last week that he would not compromise with the Democrats on a resolution.

"We have come together on a resolution, a compromise resolution which I think makes a lot of sense," Hagel said Thursday during a phone conference from Washington.

He said all the senators who worked on the two draft resolutions have approved the compromise.

"I expect it to pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote," he said.

The full Senate was expected to take up the resolution next week.

Hagel said the compromise resolution may have competition from one offered by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would tie benchmarks in Iraq to U.S. involvement, and possibly others.

In proposing an Iraq resolution, Hagel said, he wanted to "get the Senate engaged in an open debate for the American people."

"Each of the 100 senators needs to be heard on this and take a position," he said.

Bush: ‘There’s a lot of pessimism’
Bush on Wednesday objected to Iraq proposals from Republicans and Democrats alike and acknowledged that "there's a lot of pessimism" in Congress about his troop buildup.

The compromise resolution put forth by Levin and Warner protects funding for troops while keeping Warner's original language expressing the Senate's opposition to the buildup.

"The revised resolution is strongly worded, expresses the Senate's disagreement with the president's surge plan and holds the Iraqi government accountable for its responsibilities," said Nelson, who helped draft the compromise.

Hagel said the latest draft contains 80 percent of the wording put forth in the one he co-sponsored and that it was "responsible and constructive."

The resolution is likely to pose a threat to the White House because of its potential appeal to Republicans who have grown tired of the nearly four-year war and want a chance to express their concerns. The White House has been hoping to avoid an overwhelming congressional vote criticizing Bush's handling of the war.

"It's been a hard work in progress," Warner said of his resolution, which has been struggling to win support of 60 senators so as to prevent a filibuster.

The agreement comes as several leading Republicans who support the troop buildup said they will give the administration and the Iraqis about six months to show significant improvement. Many other Republicans say they are deeply skeptical additional troops in Iraq, rather than a political settlement, would help calm the sectarian violence.

The widely unpopular war has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 U.S. troops and is blamed for GOP losses in the Nov. 7 elections that handed control of Congress to the Democrats.

The House had planned on waiting for the Senate to vote as a way of testing the waters for Republican support of such a resolution. But according to a Democratic aide, the House will begin the process next week with a committee review. That would set the stage for a House floor debate the week of Feb. 12.