Brownback favors proposal for smaller troop increase

? Kansas presidential hopeful Sam Brownback said Thursday that he disagreed with both President Bush’s increase of troops in Iraq and a Senate committee resolution critical of Bush’s plan.

Instead, Brownback, a Republican senator, said he favored a proposal by U.S. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., that has been described in reports as endorsing a much smaller troop increase in the western Anbar province of Iraq, while also supporting the president’s authority over U.S. forces.

Brownback said Warner’s approach “is much more to my liking.” He said it also was more in keeping with a report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel, that called for a phased withdrawal of troops in Iraq and direct U.S. dialogue with Syria and Iran. Bush has rejected those recommendations.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved 12-9 a nonbinding resolution that said Bush’s troop increase was “not in the national interest.”

Brownback said he would not support that resolution, which may be debated by the full Senate within the next two weeks. He opposes it because the resolution doesn’t state “what we are for,” Brownback said.

But Brownback also was critical of Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq to try to stop increasing violence there.

“We have got to get to a political solution. We cannot impose a military solution,” he said in a teleconference with reporters.

He said Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “should do shuttle diplomacy and just park it in the region.”

Ultimately, he said Iraq probably will be divided into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions with Baghdad as a federal city. He called that a “three-state, one country” solution.

On other topics, he said Bush’s proposals to increase energy conservation and the use of alternative fuels, such as ethanol from corn and grains, were good news for Kansas.

“Kansas can be a big winner and producer,” he said.

On the minimum wage, which hasn’t been increased in 10 years, Brownback said he only would support an increase if it is tied to tax breaks for small businesses.

The House has approved increasing the wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour, but Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday blocked the proposal, saying they want a tax cut for businesses that rely on low-wage workers.

Brownback said he missed the Senate vote on the issue Wednesday because he was at an event in Boston that was part of his presidential campaign.

Brownback also said he found Bush’s health care proposals “interesting” but didn’t know enough about them to take a position on them.

Under Bush’s plan, premiums for workers’ health insurance would be added to their personal income and taxed. But Bush also would establish tax deductions of $15,000 a year for families and $7,500 for single workers for typical insurance plans.

On immigration, Brownback said he didn’t know if Congress could come to an agreement.

Brownback has supported legislation that would provide some illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship.