House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted Thursday that there would be “a drastic reduction in troops” in Iraq by the middle of 2008, saying Democratic opposition to the war had “changed the debate on Iraq in our country.”
In an interview airing Friday on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told host Chris Matthews that while Democrats may have failed for now to force President Bush to agree to a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, their agitation for disengagement from Iraq had backed the president into a corner.
Pelosi noted that Bush yielded to pressure from members of his own party in accepting benchmarks of progress that the Iraqi government was encouraged to meet to keep U.S. support.
The benchmarks in the emergency appropriations bill Bush signed last month were pushed by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, a highly respected Republican expert on defense, so “the president ... does have to answer to the benchmarks in the bill that passed,” she said.
“In either case, I think he’s in very bad shape,” she added.
War opponents seek to strike a balance
Pelosi said she expected a “drastic reduction in troops” in Iraq by the summer of next year, leaving “only those needed to fight terrorism, to train Iraqis and to protect our diplomats and our troops that are there.”
The speaker said Democrats would push to withdraw U.S. troops in future military appropriations. That way Democrats and anti-war Republicans could simultaneously “support the troops and end the war,” she said.
“What you do is to have legislation that says that the funds for the troops will be used to redeploy them out of Iraq,” she said, adding that such a measure could take the form of a bill to repeal “the authority of the president to go to war in the first place.”
“There are several different resolutions to that effect,” Pelosi said. “We will, most certainly, be voting on one of them.”
Bush losing more support on Hill
Pelosi’s warning came as a new Associated Press poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with Bush’s handling of the war. With an eye on such numbers, senators put heavy pressure Thursday on Bush’s nominee to coordinate the war effort to speed up a resolution of some sort in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Bush’s nominee to become deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan, said at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Washington should show patience to allow the Iraqi government to consolidate control of the country. But members of the committee, including Warner, said that was unacceptable.
“Wake up,” said Warner, the senior Republican on the committee. “We’re paying a heavy price for them to establish this government.”
Pelosi echoed calls by Democrats on the committee to begin withdrawing U.S. troops to put pressure on the Iraqis.
“I think we’re on a path to ending the war,” she said. “... How much longer can this continue?”
House yields to Senate on immigration
On the other major topic of the day, immigration reform, Pelosi said the House would leave it up to the Senate to work out an arrangement with the president.
The measure, a bipartisan compromise backed by Bush that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, failed a test vote Thursday in the Senate, leaving its prospects uncertain.
“I’m still hopeful that it’s alive in the Senate,” Pelosi said. “... I always said this process had to begin in the Senate. And the bill could not pass the Congress without the full attention and leadership of President Bush.”