Killing time

Republicans float proposals on the war, but Mitch McConnell says it's up to Bush to decide.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 6, 2007 3:53PM (EDT)

With Gen. David Petraeus seemingly backtracking on plans for an "assessment" of the surge in September, with a new round of car bombs striking in Baghdad, the city whose security is the focus of the president's "new" strategy, with Turkish troops now crossing the border into Iraq to chase down Kurdish guerrillas, even some congressional Republicans are beginning to figure out that they're going to need a way to do something about the war in Iraq.

Other than -- or at least in addition to -- blaming the Democrats, we mean.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul -- who drew cheers at Tuesday night's GOP debate for saying that the United States isn't "making progress" in Iraq and "should come home" -- will introduce legislation this week to "sunset" the resolution that gave George W. Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. No word yet on when the sun would set under the provision, and Paul isn't exactly a mainstream House Republican. But a "media alert" from Paul's office suggests that other members of the House will join Paul in sponsoring the bill, and that they won't all be Hawaii Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

A little closer to the center of GOP gravity, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander, Robert Bennett and Judd Gregg are calling on the president to sign on to a new war strategy based on the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group -- which is to say, focus on training Iraqi security forces and reduce support for the Iraqi government if it doesn't start meeting benchmarks.

Will either proposal win the support of the Republican leadership in Congress? Don't count on it. If the words Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell uttered to the Associated Press are any indication, he'd rather leave the problem of Iraq on Bush's shoulders for now, then dump it in the hands of whoever succeeds him in January 2009. "I anticipate that we'll probably be going in a different direction in some way in Iraq" after Petraeus' review -- such as it may be -- in September, McConnell said. "And it'll be interesting to see what the administration chooses to do."

It will also be "interesting," we suppose, to see how many U.S. troops are killed while McConnell and his colleagues wait to see what the administration "chooses" to do. Twenty American soldiers have been killed already this month, and Petraeus said Tuesday that the "full surge" hasn't even begun.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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