WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2006 -- A senior member of the Armed Services Committee threw down one of the first challenges to President Bush as Democrats began their "100 hours" of legislative action this week. Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., presented a new Iraq resolution that goes against the grain of the anticipated White House policy that will be announced by President Bush in a prime-time address tonight.
Meehan argues "phased withdrawal" is the answer and that an increase in troops "is the wrong course of action." His resolution opposes and pre-empts the president's address which will call for an increase of 22,000 troops.
"The president has taken the last 10 weeks or so and he's sort of fiddled and faddled taking extra time to let Iraq Study Group recommendations wither on the vine and it seems to me he's playing politics," Meehan told ABC News.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Meehan has been to Iraq twice and seen top generals from the ground testify about the war. He says those generals admit adding more troops won't have a "positive impact."
Problems for the President?
If the resolution should pass, President Bush would need authorization from Congress to raise troop levels from the current level of 132,000.
"The Congress never authorized a war. And I think it's high time that Congress holds the administration accountable. And one of the things we ought to do is require authorization to raise troop levels at this point," Meehan explained.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called for a similar authorization action in the Senate. "Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan," Kennedy said.
Kennedy continued saying this exercise is a power granted to Congress by the Constitution, but many colleagues argue it's not that straightforward and expect the bill will not pass.
Democrats aren't the only ones opposing President Bush according to Majority Leader Harry Reid. "At last count, there's nine Republicans, which in one way or another, say they don't support the surge," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Yet the majority of Republicans, like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are telling Democrats to tread lightly with funding cuts and try to be bipartisan as they promised.
"The stakes are extremely high. Please, Congress, understand what you are proposing. When you say 'cut off funding' or 'capping troops,' you are proposing defeat," Graham said.
The Bipartisanship Promise
Meehan says his resolution is bipartisan. Support, he says, will come from his own party in addition to anywhere from five to 20 Republicans. Meehan also wants to work with the president, but this bipartisanship seems unlikely. "I would love to work with the president in a bipartisan way. I think many Democrats would. But President Bush refuses to change his policy," Meehan explained.
The president has yet to reveal his plans for Iraq to the nation, but Democratic members of Congress anticipate strong disagreement when Bush speaks to the nation from the library of the White House tonight.