Senate Democrats have sent President Bush a letter urging him to detail U.S. strategy in Iraq following Thursday's elections. They argue Mr. Bush has failed to do so in a series of four speeches on Iraq.
The letter was signed by 40 Senate Democrats and one independent, Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont.
The letter calls on the administration to tell the leaders of all groups and political parties in Iraq that they need to make the compromises necessary to achieve a broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency in Iraq within the schedule they set for themselves. It also calls on the administration to detail the future of the U.S. mission.
"In order to support the mission, the American people need to know the remaining political, economic, and military benchmarks and a reasonable schedule for achieving the," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is the Senate's top Democrat. He says Mr. Bush has failed to level with the American people on how long U.S. troops will remain in Iraq.
In his fourth and final speech on Iraq Wednesday, the president vowed the United States would stay in Iraq until victory is achieved.
Republicans praised Mr. Bush's set of speeches. Among them is Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, who noted the president acknowledged setbacks in efforts to create a democracy in Iraq. "I thought the president did a very good job with his speeches. I thought he did an excellent job. Now public opinion will be dictated by events on the ground. But I applaud not only the description of the situation in Iraq, but admission of errors that have been made," he said.
Some Democrats also believe the administration is being more candid about the situation in Iraq.
Congressman Steven Israel, a New York Democrat, is among a group of House Democrats who met with President Bush at the White House Wednesday. "My sense is that the administration was being more realistic about the next few months than it has been in the last three years," he said. "I found the briefing to be extremely helpful, not only because of the quality of the briefing, but because there was a dose of reality that I had not heard before in the White House."
The congressmen's meeting at the White House was not the only high level administration briefing for lawmakers about Iraq.
At the Capitol, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met separately with House and Senate members to discuss the security situation as well as Thursday's parliamentary elections in Iraq. "The Iraqi people will meet another milestone on their political journey toward a stable and democratic Iraq," he said.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he told Ms. Rice the administration must do more to press the Iraqis to make political compromises and amend their constitution to be more inclusive of Sunnis and avoid a civil war. He says he was not satisfied with her response. "Her answer to that was that there is a process there for them to change it if they choose to do so. I found that a totally inadequate response to the question," he said.
Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who also met with Ms. Rice, says the administration has still not made the case that the war in Iraq was one of necessity rather than a war of choice.