Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Senate GOP Set For A Showdown

Thomas and I will be watching the debate unfold tonight while we are online. Anything that catches our eyes we will post. The Politico sets the stage for the debate tonight:

The Republican establishment is rallying to the defense of President Bush and his controversial war strategy, with some GOP members of Congress cherry-picking intelligence about a resurgent Al Qaeda to buy at least two more months for Bush's Iraq strategy.

Republican leaders on Tuesday pounced on a newly released National Intelligence Estimate to argue that the increasingly powerful and ominous Al Qaeda presence justifies current troop levels in Iraq at least until September. Democrats said the NIE proved nothing more than that the Iraq war has helped make Al Qaeda more dangerous.

With Democrats pressing for a straight up-or-down vote on a plan to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring, Republicans are increasingly playing the "Al Qaeda card" to delay, at least for two more months, any major Senate vote on changing war policy. This strategy was on full display Tuesday.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the newly declassified National Intelligence Estimate showed that Al Qaeda is "present in Iraq," and the United States must "fight them in Iraq."

At the same time, Senate Republicans pushed through a nonbinding resolution stating that "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq would "create a safe haven for Islamic radicals, including Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, who are determined to attack the United States and (U.S.) allies." The vote was 94-3.

White House press secretary Tony Snow denied that the release of the declassified portions of the intelligence report was timed to coincide with the Senate's debate on a proposal by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to pull most U.S. troops out of Iraq by April 30, but it came as part of a broader effort to stem further GOP erosion on Iraq.

Bush met privately with a group of leading conservative columnists last week, leading to several high-profile articles backing up his policy in Iraq that were widely circulated by Republicans on Capitol Hill. These helped buttress Bush's demand that Congress wait until mid-September, when Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, is scheduled to report back to lawmakers on the progress of the "surge" of 30,000 additional combat troops sent to Baghdad and surrounding regions. "President Bush is absolutely right,''

William Kristol declared in his Weekly Standard column titled "Keep on Surgin.'"

This is the showdown we have been waiting for. The GOP needs to hold the line on the president's strategy, and give the troops and General Petreus the time they were originally allotted.



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