The committee voted 12 to 9 yesterday to send a resolution of disapproval of the president's Iraq policy to the Senate floor next week, setting up what could be the most dramatic confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration since the war was launched four years ago. Many Republicans voiced anguish over the president's policy, but only one, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a co sponsor, voted in support of the resolution.
While some lawmakers and anti war activists have dismissed the resolution as largely meaningless, senior Republicans and White House officials have worked furiously to minimize GOP defections, worried that a large, bipartisan vote would have significant political repercussions.
"In an open democracy, we voice our agreements and disagreements in public, and we should not be reticent to do so. But official roll call votes carry a unique message," said Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee's senior Republican. A vote for the resolution "will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray," he said.
But Hagel implored his colleagues to take a stand after four years of docile acquiescence.
"What do you believe? What are you willing to support? . . . Why were you elected?" he asked. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business."
But the committee's partisan divide belied the deep undercurrent of GOP misgivings, as one Republican after another spoke out against the deployment of 21,500 additional troops to bolster the faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Lugar called the Bush strategy "dubious" even as he denounced the resolution as "the legislative equivalent of a sound bite." Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said additional troops should not be deployed until the Iraqi government showed more resolve. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said she opposed the president and was not afraid to tell him so. And Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said he had delivered a tough message to the White House personally: "You are not listening."
"Congress has allowed this war to go on without anyone having a stake," said an exasperated Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. "We passed the debt on to future generations. Nobody has sacrificed but the military men and women and the families."