Republican Revolt: Some Discuss Defying President

Democrats Still Lack Votes to Override Veto

July 8, 2007 —

After a week-long congressional recess, Senate leaders will start to unleash a flood of anti-war measures Monday -- everything from revoking the president's original authorization for the war to beginning troop withdrawals within a month.

"I think the dam is about to burst," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told CBS' "Face the Nation." "Republican senators who have been holding up a reasonable change in policy on this war are going home and getting hammered by their constituents."

Democrats still don't have the votes to pass most, if any, of the measures. But they intend to pressure Republicans and draw a sharp contrast on an issue that is working to their advantage in the 2008 campaign.

"We have a lot of work to do around the world," Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton said at a campaign stop, "starting with bringing our troops home from the civil war in Iraq."

For Republicans on the ballot in 2008, the war has become a serious liability.

"If the campaign were to take place in the current context, the Democrats would have a huge advantage, and this'd have to be on the minds of many Republicans," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

In fact, Republican support for the war appears to be cracking. This week, three more senior Republican senators called for a change of course in Iraq.

"The political support for this war is gone," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's eroding. It's eroding in the Republican party."

The White House is asking lawmakers to withhold judgment about the effectiveness of the surge strategy until September, when military commanders issue a progress report.

And most Republicans, even those newly critical of the war, say they will not support a firm date for troop withdrawal.

"Most of them have gone out of their way to say they will not vote with the Democrats to mandate an end to the war," O'Hanlon said. "And if you were in the White House, you would see that as a major silver lining.

"The fact that these Republicans are not willing to consider the idea of mandating an end to the war with their votes suggests that, in fact, the defections are much less serious than they might at first appear to be," O'Hanlon added.

Still, six Republican senators have now signed onto a bipartisan measure that would call for the president to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group -- including setting conditions to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq as early as next spring.

The White House is strongly opposed to the Iraq Study Group measure, calling it "dangerous." But as pressure on Republicans builds, it's possible more lawmakers will seize on this bill as a moderate alternative to begin changing the policy in Iraq.

A growing sense that the president's surge strategy isn't working may be driving the shift.

"The overall level of attacks have gone up," said Tony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an ABC News national security consultant. "The overall levels of Iraqi casualties have gone up, and so have American casualties."

"This Week" host George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" that the handwriting is on the wall for President Bush. The only questions are how dramatic the change will be and when it will happen, he said.

"This is very, very difficult for President Bush just to manage it, because he's facing such a revolt," Stephanopoulos said.

Stephanopoulos added that the president is trying to calm things by telling people not to expect miracles or overnight changes.