The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday suggesting Baghdad limit the power of its federal government and give more control to Iraq's ethnically divided regions.
The 75-23 vote marked the first agreement on Iraq among lawmakers in months, although it would have little practical effect. Republicans agreed to swing behind the nonbinding measure after it was amended to make clear that Bush should press for a new federalized system only if the Iraqis want it.
Still, the resolution underscores a bipartisan longing in Congress for a fresh diplomatic approach in Iraq. It also was a victory for presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a primary sponsor of the resolution along with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Biden advocates establishing a power-sharing agreement among ethnic factions similar to the one established in Bosnia in the 1990s. The U.S. has focused too much on trying to prop up a strong, central unified government in Baghdad, he said.
"My view for over three years has been that will not happen in the lifetime of anyone in this room," Biden told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
It is unlikely the Bush administration will alter its policies on Iraq considering the resolution. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a letter Tuesday that the administration supports a federal Iraq, but it is a "sensitive issue best left to the Iraqis to address at their own pace."
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration no longer has objections to the measure after it was altered to make clear that Baghdad's power-sharing agreement should be left up to the Iraqis.
"It's always been our view and understanding that the Iraqis had a vision for a united, pluralist, federalist Iraq," Fratto said. The legislation "does not reverse or counter the goals the Iraqis have for themselves."
Republican co-sponsors to the proposal included Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
The resolution is the only war-related measure that has overcome the Senate's 60-vote threshold since debate began this month on a defense policy bill. Last week, the Senate rejected three Democratic proposals aimed at limiting troop deployments or ending combat.
Voting for Biden's proposal were 26 Republicans, two Independents and 47 Democrats. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., joined 22 Republicans in opposing the measure.