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Bush Readies Iraq Plan: Democrats Promise Scrutiny


President Bush is putting the finishing touches on a revised strategy for Iraq. There are indications he will call for a major short-term troop increase, as well as money for a massive job-training program. But as VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports, there is growing skepticism on Capitol Hill.

The president may be the commander-in-chief of the military, but Congress must approve the money for the war. And the new, Democratic, Speaker of the House of Representatives says any White House proposal for more funds for Iraq will get hard scrutiny.

Appearing on the CBS television program, Face the Nation, Nancy Pelosi stopped short of saying Democrats would try to block any spending on additional troops. But she stressed the president can no longer rely on the legislature to give him a blank check to wage war.

"If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," said Nancy Pelosi. "And this is new for him."

Pelosi made clear that Congressional Democrats will continue to support U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. At the same time, she emphasized, the president must understand that opposition to a troop surge is strong, and not just among the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

"This is not just about Democrats," she said. "This is about the American people. They are watching to see what difference this election can make. The president should heed their message. We should not be obliged to an open-ended war."

Iraq was the big issue in the November 2006 Congressional elections that yielded power in the House and Senate to the Democrats. And, even among Republicans, there are now skeptics about the president's war policy.

The top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, acknowledged the split during an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program. Nonetheless, he predicted the president's revised Iraq strategy will get Congressional approval, even if it includes a troop surge.

"And, even though this will be a controversial step, I think the president will be able to carry it out, and I hope he will be successful," said Mitch McConnell.

McConnell said the Congress does not have the ability to micromanage the war, meaning that, among other things, while the legislature must approve overall spending, it can not dictate which troops go where.

The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, agrees. He told NBC's Meet the Press program that, once Congress authorized the president to go to war, it lost the ability to micromanage the conflict.

Biden said, there is only one way now to block a troop surge. He said Congressional Republicans must unite with Democrats in a public show of opposition, adding, he has already drafted a Senate resolution of disapproval.

"It is a 'sense of the Senate' [non-binding resolution] to try to convince the president that there are significant numbers and members in the United States Senate who think this proposal is a mistake, and, hopefully, [this resolution will] force him to reconsider," said Joseph Biden.

White House officials have refused to comment publicly on just what the president will propose when he unveils his revised Iraq strategy, although they acknowledge a troop surge is one option that has received serious consideration.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the president may request a temporary influx of as many as 20,000 additional U.S. combat troops. In its front-page story, the Times - quoting unnamed administration officials - also said the president is planning to ask for as much as $1 billion for a plan to employ Iraqis in reconstruction projects.

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