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Time for Congress to Pick a Plan to End Iraq Occupation

DEMOCRATS ARE PEELING OFF some Republican warmongers in an effort to end the occupation of Iraq through amendments to the bulky must-pass defense appropriations measure. Whether they succeed is in doubt.

But some Republicans have clearly jumped sides: Sens. Olympia Snowe (Me.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.).

 There are four major war-limiting proposals pending:

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would require phased withdrawals within 120 days of enactment, with funding cut off after March 31, 2008. Funds would remain available for “targeted” anti-terrorism operations, training and equipping Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. infrastructure and personnel.

Prospects for passage appear bleak, although sponsors hope to improve on the 29 supporters who had voted back in May when the bill was first introduced to cut off debate and force a vote.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) would begin bringing troops home within 120 days of enactment with a goal of completing withdrawal in the spring of 2008. In the interim, troops would shift from combat positions to more limited roles in counter-terrorism and the training of Iraqi security forces. Sources say this has a real possibility. It is a test for Republicans who have recently spoken out against the war.

A similar measure passed Congress last year in a bill Bush vetoed. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Robert Byrd (DW. Va.) would revoke Congress’s 2002 war authorization and force Bush to come back to Congress to justify further combat operations. By “de-authorizing” the war, the amendment would allow continuation of only those missions explicitly authorized by Congress.

Sens. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) would require the administration to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for a diplomatic effort to end the war and a transition from combat operations in 2008. The recommendations were rejected by the White House. Its prospects are good if the Senate can bring it to a vote with 60 supporting cloture, or limited debate.

(Issue #29 & 30, July 16 & 23, 2007)

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Updated July 13, 2007