Congressional Democrats Begin Efforts to Shape Iraq Policy

Congressional Democrats Begin Efforts to Shape Iraq Policy

WASHINGTON -- As "civil war" rages in Iraq, so does the increasingly furious fight between Democrats and the Bush administration over what to do now that the holidays -- and with them the season of election-year posturing -- are finally over. The rhetorical salvos could not have been more piercing across Washington yesterday as the new Democratic leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened the first in a series of hearings on how to change the current course of action in Iraq -- just hours before President George W. Bush appeared on national television in an apparent attempt to outflank the Democrats by announcing that the decision on how to change things has already been made.

The thrust of Bush's plan for change is an increase in U.S. troop levels by 21,500 soldiers, lifting the total number in Iraq from the current 140,000 to a bit more than 160,000. (For more on Bush's speech, see the World Politics Review blog.)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, now under the leadership of Delaware Democrat and sharp Iraq war critic Joe Biden, may have not known the President's plan was already set when the current round of Iraq hearings was scheduled. But it is more likely that Biden and others on the committee, including some Republicans, have simply given up on trying to communicate with the White House on Iraq, and instead are now convening hearings -- two more are on the docket this week, one on "alternative plans" and the other on "the administration's plan" for Iraq -- as the first step in pursuing their own proposals and thwarting the president's.

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