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Handicapping the U.S. Senate: Day One in Testimony on the Surge

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It is become clearer by the day now that there are clearly two or perhaps three "camps" or "sides" forming within the United States Senate. One side, made up largely of the Democratic majority, including several who have announced their intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency, seeks a vote an a "non-binding" kind of condemnation or "sense of the Senate" voicing the position that the president's plan to surge some 21,000 additional troops into Iraq is a bad idea.

The other side, made up of several members of the Republican minority, may seek to bloc a vote on the Democratic non-binding condemnation or they may seek to submit a resolution of their own, with language supporting the president.

Perhaps the key voters in this drama now playing out on Capitol Hill will be several Republican Senators, headed by Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska who are supporting their own resolution that is closely aligned to the Democratic majority resolution.

"There is a lot of pressure on people who could be with us not to be with us," said Senator Collins.
The list of Democrats supporting the non-binding condemnation of the president's surge plan is becoming clear. These are the Bush plan foes. The resolution will likely be forwarded or offered by Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Democrat of Delaware. He as already announced his intention to seek the presidency.

Senator Biden is heading the opposition to the surge camp, it would seem, joined by and Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, as well as Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and the bulk of the Democratic Majority including Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Gore and the others.

Senator Biden clearly has made his mind up that the surge is a bad idea. He did not remain for the duration of his committee's hearing with former Secretary of State Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton yesterday afternoon.

The leadership of the Bush Plan Allies includes Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. It is also clear that they will probably be joined by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, and probably several others.

Key Events in the U.S. Senate On Tuesday, January 30, 2007

(1) We attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting, chaired by Senator Biden.

Former Secretary Baker and former Representative Hamilton offered what we thought was riveting testimony on the detail of the Iraq Study Group report.

A summary of this hearing as we saw it is here under the headline "Iraq Study Group Co-Chairs Face Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

(2) In the morning yesterday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to hear the testimony of the president's nominee to become the new commander of the Central Command: Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, USN.

He said "time is running out" for positive action by the government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to show it can quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.

"Maybe we ought to redefine the goals here a bit and do something that's more realistic in terms of getting some progress and then maybe take on the other things later," Admiral Fallon said."What we've been doing is not working and we have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different," Admiral Fallon added.

(3) In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said "I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider," [on the future course of action in Iraq]. "The decider is a joint and shared responsibility."

Also at the Judiciary Committee, Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat who acted as chairman for the hearing, opened this committee by saying, "Good morning, and welcome to this hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee entitled "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War." We are honored to have with us this morning a distinguished panel of legal scholars to share their views on this very important and timely issue."

Senator Feingold said he would soon introduce a resolution that would go much further than the Senator Biden non-binding resolution. It would end all financing for the deployment of American military forces in Iraq after six months, other than a limited number working on counterterrorism operations or training the Iraqi Army and police force. In effect, it would call for all other American forces to be withdrawn by the six-month deadline.

It is interesting to note that, when interviewed by several of the cable TV news network, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that Senator Feingold was clearly operasting not on a political agenda alone but totally believed in his heart that continued U.S. support for the war in Iraq was wrong. He said Senator Feingold was operating on a matter of conscience.

(4) Senator Levin, Democrat of Michigan and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee submitted a letter he co-authored with Senator McCain, also of the committee and a Republican candidate for the presidency, demanding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice make public the administration's requirements for actions to be taken by the government in Baghdad to earn continued American support.

"We all know the world is watching," said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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