Washington President Bush's plan to boost government mandates on ethanol and other alternative fuels drew praise Tuesday from Kansas' congressional delegation, but the state's lawmakers expressed growing concern about deploying more U.S. forces to Iraq.
In his State of the Union address, Bush defended his war strategy from skeptics who question the idea of sending 21,500 more troops to help quell the violence in Iraq. Bush also announced ambitious proposals to expand health insurance coverage and cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next decade.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts warned that Bush's domestic proposals may languish as long as Americans remain skeptical about his management of the war in Iraq.
"What remains to be seen is whether any of the president's domestic agenda, no matter how worthy, can get off the ground without greater public and congressional support," Roberts said.
While Roberts has offered cautious support for the troop increase, he said the commitment should be reassessed during the next six months if the situation doesn't improve.
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback said he remains firmly opposed to sending more forces, despite Bush's argument that failure in Iraq would lead to a haven for terrorists.
"It hasn't changed my mind," Brownback said. "I think we have to have a bipartisan buy-in on the war in Iraq. I continue to believe the key is for the president to reach out to the Democrats to ask what they will support."
Brownback and Roberts were more positive about Bush's plan to require the annual use of 35 billion gallons of ethanol and other alternative fuels such as biodiesel by 2017, five times the current requirement.
"Kansas is well-positioned to lead the way on renewable energy such as ethanol, wind, biodiesel and renewable diesel," Roberts said. "But the devil is always in the details, and I caution that we have to understand what effects a 35-billion-gallon mandate would have on all sectors of the economy."
Brownback said the mandate could lead to "a golden age for U.S. agriculture" and huge benefits for Kansas farmers.
Even Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt, typically a staunch defender of the president, expressed concerns about Bush's plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq. But he stressed the need to win the conflict as part of the overall global war on terror.
"If this new strategy does not prove to be successful, we must remain flexible to implement a new approach that ensures success and brings our troops home safely and as quickly as possible," Tiahrt said.