"All 100 Senators oughta be on the line on this. If you want a safe job, go sell shoes," declared anti-surge Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska this morning during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, currently conducting its "markup" of Hagel’s own bipartisan, non-binding resolution that would term the President’s new Iraq strategy "not in the national interest."
"This resolution is not defeatist, not cut and run, its not cutting off funding not supporting our troops. This is a real discussion of the most divisive American issue since Vietnam," Hagel said.
Later, Hagel called the political wrangling over Iraq "a ping pong game with American lives. These Marines we are putting into Anbar province are not beans," Hagel said. "These are human beings and we have to be damn sure we know what we are doing before we put more in there."
Most Republicans on the committee are skeptical of the surge, but many oppose the Hagel resolution, which is also offered by Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine and Democrats Joe Biden of Delaware, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Carl Levin of Michigan.
Dick Lugar of Indiana, for instance, the ranking Republican on the committee, said that the resolution was inadequate because it only opposes the surge and does not represent the "breadth of opinions" in the Senate on the issue. Lugar pointed out the gamut of ideas in Congress, from the opinion that the surge is to small to the opinion that troops should be pulled out of Iraq immediately"
"I do not think this resolution will reveal the level of discomfort with the President’s plan," Lugar said. "Its likely to reveal far less discomfort than exists because some Senators will vote against it based on its format."
The markup has also revealed divisions among Democrats. Senator Chris Dodd tried to offer an amendment that would add a binding troop cap (137,500 on 1/16 level) on forces in Iraq. The President would have to seek a new authorization from Congress to add to that level. Dodd said the non-binding resolution should have teeth.
Biden said it was not workable and to Dodd, "You’re right, kids are dying over there, but nothing in this amendment is going to stop that." He also complained that troop caps do not mandate withdrawal and so imply the status quo is ok.
Biden wants to pass the non-binding resolution, register support, and then move on to find a binding way to affect policy.
To that end, Biden did not dismiss a competing non-binding resolution, offered by Republican Sen. John Warner from Virginia and others that substitute Hagel’s characterization that the surge is "not in the national interest" with the simple idea that the Senate "disagrees" with it.
Biden said, "We need to let the President know, in a bipartisan way, ‘Mr. President, you’re making a mistake."