Senate Democrats

On Timetables …

As President Bush sends 35,000 more American soldiers over to Iraq, giving him the capability to keep his escalation going even longer, members of his party are discovering a newfound appreciation for the timetables they previously joined Bush in rejecting. Unfortunately, the American people are demanding a change of course now, not next September. Republicans who have had enough of President Bush’s flawed Iraq policies should join with Democrats to craft legislation that transitions the mission.

President Bush has said no to any timetable in Iraq.

President Bush said timetables “make no sense.”  “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you start to plan withdrawing. If we were to do so, the enemy would simply mark their calendars and begin plotting how to take over a country when we leave…Instead, it would embolden our enemies and confirm their belief that America is weak. It could unleash chaos in Iraq that could spread across the entire region. It would be an invitation to the enemy to attack America and our friends around the world.” (Remarks, 4/24/07)

White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino made it clear the President will not support timetables or deadlines.  “‘Here we go again,’ Perino said in a statement. ‘The Senate is trying another way to put a surrender date on the calendar. Welcome to politics ‘08-style.’” (AP, 5/4/07)

  • But Bush was for timetables before he was against them.   “I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.” (Scripps Howard/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/5/99

Congressional Republicans used to claim they were against any timetables as well . . .

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said any deadlines damage the morale of the troops.  “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, took his turn on Tuesday, saying such comments damage the morale of the troops. ‘We should not be pulling the rug out from under them and declaring their whole effort lost before it’s even completed,’ he said.” (New York Times, 4/24/07)

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott called any deadline “irresponsible.”  “But, they understand that artificial timetables, even as goals, are a problem… For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally irresponsible.” (Fox News Sunday, 3/25/07) 

House Minority Leader John Boehner called a timetable “politically charged” and “mandating failure.”  “Back in February on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ I warned that Democrats’ non-binding resolution was merely a first step towards mandating failure in Iraq. Now they’re taking the next step. It’s been called the ‘slow-bleed’ strategy — an attempt to micromanage the war and choke off resources for American troops in harm’s way. Their plan consists of a series of constitutionally-suspect, politically-charged deadlines and conditions that purposely undermine our generals on the ground and telegraph a timeline for withdrawal to our enemy.” (Washington Examiner, 3/22/07)

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt called any timetable “surrender.”  “The outcome of this afternoon’s vote wasn’t determined today, last week, or last month – it was decided three months ago when Democrats decided to advance a timetable for surrender they knew could never be signed by the president.” (Press Release, 5/2/07)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that she will not support a timetable.  “I voted against the conference report today because it included a dangerous timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops.” (Press Release, 4/24/07)

But now, breaking with the President, Congressional Republicans are coming up with timetables of their own . . .

Senator McConnell has set his own deadline of “late summer.”  “Senate Minority Leader McConnell seconded a House GOP suggestion that congressional Republicans might be ready to embrace a ‘Plan B’ in Iraq by the end of summer if the troop buildup fails to stabilize the country and the Iraqi government continues to stumble…‘I think the time to look at where we are … is late summer,’ McConnell said.” (Congress Daily AM, 5/8/07)

Senator Lott has set a deadline of “September”.  “Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott says President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq has until about fall before GOP members will need to see results. Lott’s comment Monday put a fine point on what Senate Republican stalwarts have been discussing quietly for weeks. It also echoed remarks made this weekend by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, indicating the GOP’s limited patience on the war. ‘I do think this fall we have to see some significant changes on the ground, in Baghdad and other surrounding areas,’ Lott, R-Miss., told reporters.” (AP, 5/8/07)

Rep. Boehner is looking for a “Plan B” sometime in September.  “Over the course of the next three to four months, we’ll have some idea how well the plan’s working. Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts.  But, by the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B.” (AP, 5/6/07)

  • Which is his SECOND Iraq timeline.  Rep. Boehner gave the surge 60 – 90 days in January. “I think it will be rather clear in the next 60 to 90 days as to whether this plan is going to work. And, again, that’s why we need to have close oversight, so that we just don’t look up 60 or 90 days from now and realize that — that this plan is not working.” (CNN, 1/23/07)

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) said that we need to see real action from the Iraqis by September.  “‘There is a sense that by September, you’ve got to see real action on the part of Iraqis,’ said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). ‘I think everybody knows that, I really do.’” (Washington Post, 5/8/07)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-MN) said that the President must demonstrate progress by August.  “‘If the president’s new strategy does not demonstrate significant results by August, then Congress should consider all options — including a redefinition of our mission and a gradual but significant withdrawal of our troops next year,’ said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who last week voted against the withdrawal bill.” (Los Angeles Times, 4/30/07)

Even General Petraeus has committed to a defacto timetable:  “Army General David Petraeus also said that in early September the United States will conduct a full assessment of the Iraq mission’s progress and then will make recommendations as a result of that assessment. ‘I want to make clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas,’ Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq, said in a Pentagon news conference. ‘This effort may get harder before it gets easier.’”  (USINFO, 4/26/07)

 Unfortunately, they’ve picked the wrong timetable:  Americans want a change of course in Iraq NOW, not in September.

  • 1468 days have passed with American soldiers in Iraq.
  • 3,378 American soldiers have died during the conflict in Iraq. ( 
  • Over $8.6 billion a month is being spent in Iraq in 2007.  (CRS Report RL33110, 3/14/07)
  • The War in Iraq will be second to only World War II in expense.  “Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress has approved more than $609 billion for the wars, a figure likely to stand as lawmakers rework their latest spending bill in response to a Bush veto. Requests for $145 billion more await congressional action and would raise the cost in inflation-adjusted dollars beyond the cost of the wars in Korea and Vietnam.” (Washington Post, 5/8/07)