Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bush allies mobilize to block opponents of Iraq plan

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Allies of US President George W. Bush in the Senate began a major effort on Tuesday to prevent a potentially embarrassing rejection of the president's plan to push 20,000 more troops into Iraq.

With the Senate expected to reach votes on possible resolutions sometime next week, the signs of the new campaign seeped out after a weekly closed-door lunch in which Republican senators engaged in what participants described as a heated debate over how to approach the issue.

The new effort by Bush's allies was aimed at blocking two nonbinding resolutions directly critical of the White House that had appeared to be gaining broad support among Democrats and even some Republicans.

Republicans skeptical of the troop buildup said some of their colleagues had begun to suggest that opponents of the White House plan ran the risk of undermining Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the new military commander in Iraq, as well as Bush.

"There is a lot of pressure on people who could be with us not to be with us," said Representative Susan Collins, the co-author of one resolution with representatives John Warner and Ben Nelson.

ALTERNATIVE RESOLUTION

As an alternative to that measure and another broadly backed by Democrats, representatives John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with Representative Joseph Lieberman were trying to enlist support for a resolution that would set benchmarks for the Iraqi government to work towards and describe the US troop increase as a final chance to restore security to a war-torn Baghdad.

Graham and McCain have been joined in their effort by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Representative John Cornyn and Representative David Vitter of Louisiana.

In advance of a possible Senate vote on the resolutions, Republican senators appeared widely divided over how to proceed.

In trying to head off the resolution supported by Warner and Collins, allies of the White House appeared to be trying to muster at least the 41 votes they would need to prevent a vote on the measure under Senate rules.

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