WASHINGTON | Less than 24 hours after the GOP blocked debate of a nonbinding Iraq resolution, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama offered the Senate a clear-cut alternative.
Despite the Senate's dismissal of a long-negotiated bipartisan resolution, the Illinois freshman senator and prospective Democratic presidential candidate reinitiated discussion of an even bolder measure. The Iraq War De-escalation Act, which he introduced a week ago, not only rejects the president's troop increase but also offers a timeline for bringing American forces home.
Obama, along with Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Cal., and Patrick Murphy, D-Penn., called for President Bush to seriously consider the plan, saying that it is an alternative that Bush says his critics have not offered.
"Here it is, Mr. President," Obama said. "And we hope you consider it, as we hope our colleagues in the Senate and the House consider it as well."
The bill will face an uphill battle, however, as many Republicans have been wary of straying from their party line. In Monday's Senate vote to consider the nonbinding resolution, not even Sen. John Warner, R-Va., voted to proceed -- despite having helped write it.
Obama's plan, which would have the force of law, calls for American troops to begin pulling out of Iraq no later than May 1, 2007. The legislation would have all combat brigades out of Iraq by March 2008.
At a news conference Tuesday, Obama said he believes the decrease in troops would provide the leverage Americans need to get the Iraqi government to take more responsibility for its country. The plan also places conditions on future economic aid by forcing Iraq to comply with 13 benchmarks demonstrating progress by the government.
"Our troops have performed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war," Obama said. "That's why our plan not only stops the escalation of this war but begins a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement."
The benchmarks proposed by the legislation are the same as those offered by Bush and the Iraq Study Group, but Obama said his legislation differs in that it links the conditions to consequences, whereas Bush's plan does not.
"And that's what's been missing throughout this process -- any sense of accountability," Obama said.
"What our bill does is take the president at his word that these are the benchmarks that are going to be required ... but it ties it very specifically to U.S. troop presence."
Thompson and Murphy -- the only Iraq war veteran in Congress -- have introduced a companion bill in the House. The congressmen said they hope to begin debate as soon as possible, calling discussion of the war "long overdue."