While the Democrats work on the Department of Defense’s $649 billion spending bill for next year, they are also expected to debate amendments which would withdraw the troops from Iraq. One of the amendments from Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hegel (R-NE) would require troops to spend as much time at home as they do in combat. The other amendment being proposed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) calls for the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq within 120 days.

President Bush is in Cleveland today, and while laying out his agenda for the day, he said, “I’m going to remind the people in the audience today that troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C., and that we’ve got a plan to lead to victory. And I fully understand that this is a difficult war, and it’s hard on the American people. But I will once again explain the consequences of failure to the American people, and I’ll explain the consequences of success, as well.”

After the details of the highly anticipated status report on the Iraqi government’s failed progress towards meeting benchmarks was leaked to the Associated Press, the White House went into full spin mode. Press Secretary Tony Snow was on both NBC’s The Today Show, and CNN trying to lower expectations for the report, and the troop surge. “What Congress will get this week is a snapshot of the beginning of the retooling of the mission in Iraq,” Snow said on CNN. “Everyone says, ‘We want to do it a different way.’ We agree. It’s just now started.” Later while speaking in Cleveland President Bush said, “Congress oughta wait for General Petraeus to come back and give us his assessment before they make any decisions.”

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden (D-DE) laid out the Democratic plan to pressure Republicans to break with the president. “I’ve said since last fall, the only way this President will ever change his Iraq policy will be when he looks east down Pennsylvania Avenue and realizes he has lost the support of his own party. We’re seeing that happen and I predict we’re going to see a lot more of it in the coming weeks.   That’s how this war will end. This Defense bill presents us with another major opportunity and a responsibility to change course so that our troops can start to come home.  The best way to do that is to get our troops out of the sectarian civil war and to transition them to a much more limited mission of combating Al Qaeda terrorists and training Iraqis.  If we do that, the President cannot justify keeping 160,000 boots on the ground in Iraq,” Biden said.

Day by day, as the pressure mounts, more Senate Republicans are calling on the president to change his Iraq strategy. Just in the last few days you can add the names of Republican senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to the growing list of those who are openly expressing doubt about the strategy currently being pursued. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen this week though. I don’t think the Senate Republicans are willing to support either of the two Democratic amendments just yet. However, you shouldn’t be surprised if both of these amendments pick up a little more support, and inch closer to the magic number of 60 votes required for passage.

Biden’s statement

President Bush speaking in Ohio

quotes from CNN

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse

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