Senate Democrats

Senate Leaders Call For Urgent Change To President Bush’s Iraq Policy

Announce aggressive January oversight schedule to monitor president’s implementation of much-needed change in course

Washington, DC — With the Iraq Study Group’s report today pressing for urgent change in Iraq and the redeployment of American troops, Senate Democrats today called on President Bush to bring the country together behind a new course in Iraq. The Senate leaders announced a series of aggressive oversight hearings for the start of the 110th Congress to measure the President’s progress in implementing such an urgently needed change to his Iraq policy. Democrats have called upon the President to quickly wrap up his internal Iraq policy reviews in the next few days so that a major change of course in Iraq policy can be implemented before the end of the year. Next year, the Senate will take up its constitutional responsibility and conduct the tough oversight needed to ensure a change in policy.

“The American people have spoken. The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group has spoken. They have all demanded a change of course in Iraq, and the Bush Administration must listen,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “In the next Congress, Democrats will work with our Republican colleagues to ensure that the Senate does its job and holds this White House accountable. There is no longer any question. President Bush must change course in Iraq.”

“The Iraq Study Group’s report is important, necessary, but not sufficient to achieve the objective most Americans want: to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind,” Senator Biden said. “It has moved the center of debate from whether we should leave to when and how. What is missing is a strategy for sustaining a political settlement among Iraqis so they stand together instead of falling apart. I look forward to holding intensive and extensive hearings on Iraq to shine a light on what options remain for America in Iraq. As the report makes clear, staying the course is not an option.”

Said Senator Levin, “the Iraq Study Group report clearly and strongly supports changing the course in Iraq in a number of important ways. Most importantly it calls for the transition of U.S. forces in Iraq from a combat to a support role and the phased withdrawal of U.S. combat brigades, except those needed for forces protection, from Iraq. The phased redeployment would, among other things, be a way of pressing the Iraqis to take the political steps toward reconciliation – sharing power and resources – that only they can take.”

“The Baker/Hamilton report is not the definitive answer or end-point – but it does represent the possibility of a new beginning – a turning point. There is wide-spread agreement across America that we must change course, and it is my sincere hope that the President is committed not just to listening, but actually committed to change, and to finding a unified solution,” Senator Rockefeller said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a series of hearings examining the current strategy in Iraq, the implementation of that strategy, the need for a change in strategy, and what needs to be done to restore the readiness of our forces, particularly ground forces. The Committee will hear from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; other senior Defense Department officials; senior, frontline and retired military officers; as well as top defense and military policy experts.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct a series of hearings on what options remain for America in Iraq. Witnesses will include senior State Department officials and top foreign policy experts.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to hold its annual open and closed hearing assessing national security threats to the United States in January, examining Iraq and its effects on regional stability, the war on terror and our ability to succeed in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, China, and other key issues. Witnesses at this hearing are expected to include the Director of National Intelligence and the Directors of the CIA, DIA, FBI, and the State Department’s intelligence bureau.