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Senate Democrats say they are wary of Bush administration's reconstruction plan in Iraq

Senate Democrats say they are wary of Bush administration's reconstruction plan in Iraq

Emboldened by a successful first vote against President George W. Bush's Iraq war policy, Senate Democrats said Thursday they were wary of the administration's anticipated $1.2 billion (euro920 million) request for reconstruction there.
Sen. Joseph Biden, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wants assurances from the Republican administration that the money would not fuel corruption or the insurgency in Iraq.
A key piece of Bush's new strategy is increasing reconstruction efforts, with the U.S. pledging another $1.2 billion (euro920 million) and the Iraqi government designating $10 billion (euro7.7 billion). As part of the plan, Bush is dispatching 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to bolster security so reconstruction efforts are not stalled.
"I hope we will hear today some concrete details on why these funds will achieve better results than we've been able to achieve before," Biden said.
The U.S. has spent nearly $15 billion (euro11.5 billion) in reconstruction already and "as you know better than I do, the results aren't pretty," he added.
Biden's committee on Wednesday passed 12-9 a resolution that dismissed Bush's plans to increase troops in Iraq as "not in the national interest." The vote on the nonbinding but symbolic measure was largely along party lines, with Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska being the sole Republican on the committee offering his support.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
"The president has made his decision," Vice President Dick Cheney fired back in a CNN televisioninterview, a response that made it clear the administration would go ahead anyway. "We need to get the job done."
Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to shore up support for the Iraq war plan. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents voting with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other in order to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome parliamentary delaying tactics and advance legislation.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that he does not n't want the issue rammed through.
"We're not going to try to stop the votes. What we want to do is make sure we have a number of different alternatives," he told MSNBC television. "Members of my party who differ with the president one way or another are all working on different alternatives. I think what we'll end up with ... is sort of a smorgasbord of options that will attract different members, all of which are likely, as virtually everything in the Senate is likely, to be subject to a 60-vote threshold."
Senate Democratic leaders say they are willing to negotiate the language to pull in more Republican. Sen. John Warner, a Republican who sponsored a rival proposal, has already met with Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat, and others to discuss his position.
"The goal is to try to salvage this situation and not send the additional troops with a message of disapproval," Sen. John McCain, a Republican, said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said Thursday that the resolution the committee approved is not the last that will be heard from Congress.
"A resolution that that says we're against this escalation, that's easy. The next step will be how do you put further pressure on the administration against the escalation, but still supporting the troops who are there," he said on NBC television's "Today" program.
"That's what we're figuring out right now," Schumer added. "But this will not be the end. There will be other resolutions with more teeth in it afterwards and my bet -- they'll get a majority of support and significant Republican support."
As the two sides try to find consensus, the State Department's senior Iraq adviser, David Satterfield, testified Thursday on reconstruction efforts before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While most Republicans refused Wednesday to back the Iraq resolution, some of them suggested their position may change.
Sen. George Voinovich said he believed the resolution could be viewed as a political attack on Bush and misinterpreted "by our enemies as abandoning Iraq." But, he added, he remained skeptical that additional troops in Baghdad would be successful.
"I have been waiting for the administration to extend an olive branch in an attempt to forge a compromise" that would make clear "we stand united as a nation," he said. "I obviously have been disappointed since that has not happened."


Updated : 2021-07-29 08:44 GMT+08:00