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Capitol Hill prepares for tough hearings on Iraq

A growing number in Congress oppose a troop surge, but will not vote against funding the war.

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Even before President Bush lays out his "new way forward" in Iraq, the Demo-cratic majority in Congress and a growing number of Republicans say they will oppose any troop surge – but not to the point of blocking funding for the war.

That means a key aspect of the president's plan, expected to be unveiled this week, will run into a wall of words on Capitol Hill, but not much more.

"We're not going to fight their civil war for them," says Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D) of California, who chairs the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. She supports a shift of existing US forces out of areas of sectarian violence.

But if the president insists on adding forces into the most troubled areas, would she vote to deny him the funds to carry out his plan? "No," she says. "That's why he's got us over a barrel."

Still, oversight hearings convening across Capitol Hill, beginning this week, mark an escalation in congressional opposition to the war, including among members of the president's own party.

Beginning Tuesday new Democratic committee chairmen are launching hearings on issues ranging from military strategy, reconstruction, and diplomacy in the region to the Iraqi refugee crisis.

"We will use these hearings to ask tough questions, demand real solutions, and keep working to bring this war to a close," said Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in the Democratic response to Bush's weekly radio address on Saturday.

Citing the advice of current and past military leaders, Democratic leaders on the Hill are opposing any move to pour additional troops into Iraq, even before Bush announces his plan. Instead, they called on him to begin a "phased redeployment" of US forces in the next four to six months, shifting the mission from combat to "training, logistics, force protection, and counterterror."


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