ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid told reporters he feels vindicated by the Iraq Study Group Report and thinks the report will result in the withdrawal of troops.
After a closed-door meeting with the Iraq Study Group and Senate leaders from both parties, incoming Senate Majority Leader Reid told reporters, "This group agrees with the public on election night. There needs to be a change of course in Iraq."
Reid said the study group members explained that their report calls for redeployment and study group member William Perry told the Senators that if the recommendations are followed, most US troops would be out of Iraq by the first quarter of 2008.
"The ball is in the President’s court," Reid said. "It is up to President Bush to enact these recommendations."
No Republican leaders came to the pool camera, but incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) released a paper statement after the meeting which attempted to control expectations that the report’s recommendations are a panacea.
"“I think we all know there is no quick or easy way to complete the important mission in Iraq, and those who hoped this report would provide a get-done-quick solution will be disappointed. And though we won’t reach agreement overnight, this is an opportunity for us to work in a bipartisan way with Democrats and the White House and reach consensus on one of the most critical issues before the Congress," McConnell wrote.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee when Democrats take over in January spoke at the same stakeout as Reid.
"Hopefully this is the end of the stay the course strategy," Levin said. He pointed to the frank statements of Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates, who admitted the US is not winning the war in Iraq at his confirmation hearing yesterday, as a "blow to the stay the course strategy." The Iraq study group report is "another major blow."
But Democrats do not want to appear that they are glomming onto a politically popular report.
"This is not a question of Democratic Senators embracing this report," Reid said, implying that Democrats have advocated change and redeployment before today. He pointed to the amendment passed onto a 2005 Defense bill stating that 2006 must be a year of significant change in Iraq. And he pointed to the vote earlier this year where a majority of Democratic Senators supported a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Senator Joe Biden, who will chair the Senate Foreign Relations committee, likes the recommendation for the redeployment of troops, but disagrees with other parts of the report, which recommends against dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions. Biden points out that the Iraqi Constitution mandates a federal system for the country with separation of powers.
Neither Biden nor Reid have read the entire report and both said they are unwilling to "sign off" on the whole thing yet. But they both like the briefings they have had so far.