Senators Stake Out Positions on Bush Surge

Feb. 4, 2007 — -- President Bush faces an almost certain confrontation this week over the war in Iraq, as Congress takes up his 2008 budget and resolutions condemning his already ongoing troop increase for the war.

Today on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and John McCain, R-Ariz., outlined rival resolutions. Hagel's bill condemns the surge.

"Very simply put, we disagree with escalating our military involvement in Iraq. That is totally different, George, then saying, 'Let's get out, let's cut the funds,'" Hagel told Stephanopoulos.

In fact, none of the resolutions to be considered this week cuts off funding for the war. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News that sends a mixed message.

"I cannot guarantee you success, but I can promise you this: The day you set timelines and deadlines, it's lost in Iraq -- and it becomes a bigger war, not a smaller war," Graham said. "If the Democrats really believe this war is lost and this is just another Vietnam in another form, cut off funding."

McCain, who like Graham hopes to combat a series of anti-"surge" resolutions, supports the increase of 21,000 troops to Baghdad and the Sunni insurgent stronghold of al Anbar province to the west.

The alternative to securing Baghdad, he said, is disaster.

"The consequences of failure are such that you will see a level of violence that far exceeds anything that we have seen," he said. "You'll see a bloodletting in Baghdad that makes Srebrenica look like a Sunday school picnic, and I believe that we may have to come back at some time or another, because the Iranians will be involved, the Sunnis will be involved, Turkey will be -- if the Kurds try to become independent -- involved."

McCain's plan does set tough benchmarks for Iraq's government, but there is no penalty clause in case Iraq fails to meet them.

As lawmakers in both parties consider condemning the president's "surge," Congress will also be critically eyeing his $3 trillion budget for 2008, which he plans to give them Monday.

"Some of it you'll like. Some if it you won't like," the president told members of the House Democratic Caucus in an address in Williamsburg, Va., on Saturday. "But it achieves the goal that we have said, which is to balance the budget."

After the president spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that he would have no "blank check" from the newly Democratic-controlled Congress.

"Whatever is in the budget -- defense or otherwise -- will have to be justified," she said.

That's true in part because Bush doesn't include the full cost of the war in his budget. He is expected to ask for at least $240 billion to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year and a half in emergency supplemental funding measures for both 2007 and 2008.

Democrats note that by the end of 2008 the Bush administration's "global war on terror" will have cost nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars -- surpassing the cost of the Vietnam War. That would make it the second-costliest war in U.S. history, even when adjusted for inflation -- second only to World War II.

"The war is the eight-million-pound gorilla that throws itself around in a fashion that puts everything else off to the side," said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.