WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 1, 2007 — -- President Bush may have his proposal for increased U.S. troop levels in Iraq harshly rebuked by the U.S. Senate on Monday, thanks to the efforts of one of his party's senior statesmen on military issues, Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
Warner -- a former Marine who fought in the Korean War, a former secretary of the Navy, and the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- cobbled together a compromise bill that may win a bipartisan majority next week, providing senators an official opportunity to comment on the administration's handling of the war.
Late Wednesday night, Warner announced that he and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had joined forces to express opposition to the Iraq troop surge.
Levin had been an original co-sponsor of a more strongly worded resolution expressing opposition to the surge, written with Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
By Thursday, Biden, Hagel, and Snowe had all thrown their support behind the rewritten Warner bill, which threatens to deliver a sharp referendum to the White House. Their nonbinding resolution also pledges to protect funding for troops already serving and calls for benchmarks to measure the progress of the Iraqi government.
"If the president does not listen to the majority of the Congress," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "we will have to look for other ways to change his policy. But this is a very important first step."
Known as the Warner-Levin compromise, it has already found opposition in the Senate.
Late Thursday afternoon, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., implied that its supporters are intellectually dishonest and said the nonbinding resolution promises to "insert failure" in Iraq.
Joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., McCain announced a resolution markedly different than the snowballing Warner-Levin bill, which has the support of at least five Republicans and most Senate Democrats.
McCain's measure asks to ensure that all forces in Iraq have the necessary resources to carry out their mission and that the Iraqi government be held to concrete benchmarks.
"We're gonna pick up the paper if the Warner-Levin resolution passes, and the only thing that's going to be read by our enemies is 'Congress disapproves of surge, Baghdad lost,'" Graham said.
But that sentiment does not seem to be shared by most senators, certainly not by members of the Democrats' liberal wing, like Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
"Debating the president's plan will undermine the troops?" asked Byrd on the Senate floor. "Hogwash, H-O-G-W-A-S-H. Hogwash."
The efforts by Warner and Levin to win Republican support by adopting language suggested by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that funding for troops in the field be protected, threatens to peel off the support of some of those liberal Democrats.
Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bernard Sanders, ID-Vt., told ABC News they were not sure how they would vote on the measure, and both Sens. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said they opposed it.
"The White House has said they are going to ignore what we have to say," Dodd said. "If that's the case, why not force them to pay attention. This is [the] United States Senate, not some city council somewhere."
Perhaps sensing a loss of liberal support, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., read to reporters from a MoveOn.org press release during a press briefing Thursday afternoon which praised the Warner-Levin compromise as "an important first step."
When asked by ABC News whether losing liberals like Feingold over the addition of the Gregg provision was worth gaining Republican support, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "that's what the legislative process is all about ... [Feingold] is pretty set in his ways."
Reid was unsure if the Warner-Levin compromise would get the 60 votes necessary to override any possible GOP filibuster. But either way, according to Reid and other Democratic leaders, a bipartisan majority of the Senate will vote to oppose the surge in troops.
Z. Byron Wolf and Nitya Venkataraman contributed to this report.