By next fall President Bush “may find himself standing alone” on his Iraq war policy. That was the warning from Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, commenting on Bush’s White House meeting with 11 Republican House members, May 10, in which they bluntly warned him that time is running out on the U.S. military role in Iraq.

The lawmakers said they would vote to fund the war for now, but made clear that September’s progress report by Gen. David Petraeus, commander in Iraq, is a deadline.

Hagel said the 11 who went to see Bush “speak for far more than 11 House Republicans. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Bush’s chief political operative, Karl Rove, angrily confronted Illinois GOP Rep. Mark Kirk for speaking to reporters about the meeting, and Bush’s congressional liaison, Dan Meyer, assailed Rep. Ray LaHood, another Illinois Republican, for granting press interviews on their tense exchange with Bush.

Moira Mack, a spokesperson for Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, told the World the Republican lawmakers are worried about the 2008 elections. “The war is an urgent issue and Congress is feeling the heat,” she said in a phone interview. “The people want a responsible withdrawal from Iraq. We are organizing a lot of events in Republican districts where we have felt lawmakers can be swayed by grassroots pressure.”

Americans Against Escalation organized 358 rallies and 20 news conferences across the nation to protest Bush’s May 1 veto of an Iraq spending bill with a timetable for withdrawal. The coalition includes the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, Win Without War, VoteVets.org and other organizations.

“When Bush vetoed a responsible spending bill to end the war in Iraq, he was defying the will of the American people,” Mack said. “Since then many Americans have reacted in outrage. More and more members of his own party are splintering off from him. I think there is a lot of passion and anger about the war in Iraq.”

While lacking the votes to override that veto, a week later the House approved, 221-205, a bill providing war funding only until July. At that time, it requires Bush to certify that “progress” benchmarks have been met. Congress would then vote again on whether to release a second funding installment. Bush promises to veto that bill too.

The Senate, May 15, rejected by a vote of 67-29 a bill sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to terminate funding for combat operations in Iraq by March 31, 2008. Nineteen Democrats, 47 Republicans and independent Joe Lieberman voted no.

The Senate voted 52-44 for a far weaker resolution sponsored by Republican moderates challenging the war policy, but it fell eight votes short of the supermajority needed to override a veto.

Senate candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Barack Obama (Ill.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.), voted for the Feingold bill. Clinton said Democrats, “as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war.”

Obama said he wanted to “send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president, and my Republican colleagues that it’s long past time to change course” on Iraq.

A similar House measure by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) to terminate funding for combat operations and require redeployment of U.S. troops within nine months was defeated 171-255. Sue Udry, United for Peace and Justice legislative coordinator, said it was “the best vote we have achieved yet” for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

A majority of the Iraqi Parliament, 138 of its 275 members, has signed a draft bill calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops despite Vice President Dick Cheney’s unannounced visit to Baghdad in which he rejected calls for troop withdrawals.

Under the headline “Antiwar Groups Use New Clout to Influence the Democrats,” The New York Times May 6 reported that Americans Against Escalation has raised $7.1 million and is targeting 57 congressional districts and senators in nine states where they feel “Republican lawmakers face tough races in 2008 or show signs of wavering in their support for the president.”

Responding to suggestions that the coalition is subservient to the Democrats. Win Without War head Tom Andrews, a former Maine congressman, told the Times, “Our constituency is the people across this country who want to shut the war down. It’s not the Democratic Party.”

Indeed, MoveOn leader Tom Matzzie sent the Democrats an e-mail warning them not to “capitulate” to Bush and saying that the unity that produced victory in last November’s election would “vanish immediately” if they cave in to Bush.

greenerpastures21212 @yahoo.com

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