Biden: We'll Change 2002 War Authorization

Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Dick Lugar, Face The Nation
Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Dick Lugar, Face The Nation

With Democratic efforts to pass a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's troop "surge" stalled, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman said he will try to rework the 2002 measure that authorized the use of force against Saddam Hussein. But, the committee's ranking Republican doubted that the idea would pass the Senate and, if it did, was sure that the president would veto it.

While the majority party in the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution rebuking the president's Iraq strategy, Senate Democrats fell four votes short of pushing a similar measure forward in a rare Saturday session.

Appearing on Face the Nation the next day, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, proposed his alternate route to stopping Mr. Bush from sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

"I've been working with some of my colleagues to try to convince them that's the way to go – to repeal and restate the president's authority," Biden told Bob Schieffer. "Make it clear that the purpose that he has troops in there is to in fact protect against al Qaeda gaining chunks of territory, training the Iraqi forces, force protection and for our forces. It's not to get in the midst of a civil war."

Also appearing on Face the Nation,Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Biden's proposal would never get enough support in the Senate. Even if the majority could pass it, he said, the president would veto it and the veto could not be overturned.

Biden, who is in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said he was confident that his proposal would pass where the others had failed.

"I predict to you you're going to see pressure mount," Biden said, "and it's going to be significant."

Lugar agreed that public pressure was influencing the Congress' votes on the war, but he said none of the current proposals would make it through both houses and to the president. He said the nonbinding resolutions are being proposed to make the President consider to the opposition.

"I think the president is paying attention," Lugar said, suggesting that the next move would be a true bi-partisan search for solutions.

"I think there've been some fledgling efforts to see whether a group might be formed in a bipartisan way – couple of them haven't worked out," Lugar said. "But for example, perhaps the president's situation is improved if he calls on Senator Biden and Senator Levin, Senator McCain, Speaker Pelosi, for example, and says, you know, 'We are in a war. We're in a situation of rather fractured political circumstances right now, and we need to think through this situation.'"

One of the most outspoken critics of the war, Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., offered a different approach for Congress to control the president's war plans. He described a series of provisions that would require the Pentagon to meet certain standards for training and equipping the troops, and for making sure they have enough time at home between deployments.

"I wouldn't favor it," Lugar said. "But I would just say again that it would not be passed by two Houses and signed by the president. And, once again, it's a debating tool, which makes the point."

Biden said that Murtha is trying to save the Army, not just stop the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

"You cannot keep extending these people," Biden said. "You cannot keep doing what you're doing here. You cannot be sending them back without the proper equipment."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has said that Iran is shipping sophisticated weapons to Iraq to help Shiite militias. The increasingly hostile tone the White House is using against Iran has led to some worries that the U.S. might end up in another war.

"I don't think it's going anywhere, and my hope is that it would not," Lugar said. "I would hope very strongly that the diplomatic course is followed – that Europeans help some more – but clearly, we have got to go the diplomatic route."

Biden said the president is trying to regain credibility in the yes of the public.

"It's repackaged," Biden said. "Two years ago, I was briefed on this, a year ago I was briefed by General Chiarelli on these shape charges and how they're different."