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Are Republicans Starting to Crack on Iraq?

April 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Politico is reporting that some Republicans are cracking on their opposition to a bill with a date for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

>A diverse collection of House Republicans has formed an ad hoc group to negotiate with the White House on a compromise Iraq spending bill, Politico’s Ryan Grim reports. The group plans to hold talks with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who has been working behind the scenes to cement opposition among Republicans to the spending bill that would require U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq at some point.
>The group includes five Republicans, diverse in geography and ideology: Reps. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, Charles Boustany of Louisiana, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Mac Thornberry of Texas and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland [pictured at right]. Of the five, only Gilchrest broke with his party to support a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
>Now, Gilchrest says the group will encourage the White House to compromise on negotiations with Syria and Iran and on setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq. And the group has national security bona fides that will help it be taken seriously.

There is reason to be skeptical that the group’s main emphasis is on negotiating an end date for Iraq, as the headlines are suggesting. Wayne Gilchrest is the only member of the group who voted for the war-funding supplemental bill, which the President is planning to veto because of the end date and additional funding included in it. Coincidentally (or not) he is also the only member of the group quoted in the Politico article (read the entire article to see where Gilchrest’s quotes become the focus). It is possible that the four other members of the group who voted against the bill would say that their purpose in negotiating with the White House is more to work on “negotiations with Syria and Iran,” and less to set an end date for Iraq. There is no reason to believe that the opinions of these four members have changed since they voted against the bill on March 23. Here are some extracts, from local papers, describing their positions against the bill — and the end date it provides for the war — at the time of the vote:

Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) -voted nay

>"Providing our troops bravely standing in the breach of war against radical militant Islamists with immediate and unconditional support should be simple," the congressman said. “Instead, a bill to provide them with the resources that they need has become a vehicle to tie their hands with dangerous conditions and timetables, and rewards politicians with billions of dollars for their votes.” link

Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) -voted nay

>He plans to vote against the bill. He cited the unrelated spending but said the most troubling part was the troop withdrawal requirements. link

Charles Boustany (R-LA) -voted nay

>On Thursday, Boustany described the bill as “bloated” and said he would still not support it. “This bill is fiscal fantasy,” he said. link

Mac Thornberry (R-TX) -voted nay

>North Texas congressmen U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, and U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, both voted against the bill because it also included a timetable for withdrawal. link

Three of four cited the withdrawal/timetable provisions in the bill as the reason they voted against it. On the other hand, Gilchrest’s reason for voting for the bill was that it does contain withdrawal language:

Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) -voted aye

>The House is not the best entity to direct a war, Gilchrest said, but the troop withdrawal language would send an important signal, even if Bush vetoes the bill and the final product ultimately does not include a timetable for troop withdrawal.
>“The American people will hear it, the Iraqis will hear it, the Middle East will hear it,” Gilchrest said. link

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