Washington Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins combat troop withdrawals.
House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and the party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.
In both chambers, Democratic lawmakers are eager to take up binding legislation that would impose clear limits on U.S. involvement in Iraq after nearly four years of war. But Democrats remain divided on how to proceed.
Last week, the House approved a nonbinding resolution that criticized President Bush's decision to deploy an additional 21,500 troops, but the measure was blocked in the Senate by Republicans during a rare Saturday session. It's highly possible Senate Democrats will encounter the same procedural roadblock in attempting to push through another resolution - one with real teeth.
"I've had enough of nonbinding," said Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who is helping to draft the new Democratic proposal. The 2002 war resolution, he said, is an obvious target.
"The authorization that we gave the president back in 2002 is completely, completely outdated, inappropriate to what we're engaged in today," he said.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., began calling for a reauthorization of the war early last month.
"We gave the president that power to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein," Biden said of the 2002 resolution, in a speech last week before the Brookings Institution. "The WMD was not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq."
Biden and Levin are drafting language to present to their colleagues when the Senate reconvenes Tuesday.
The new framework would set a March 31, 2008, goal for withdrawing combat brigades, the same timetable established by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.