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Bipartisan resolution opposes Bush plan on Iraq

Story Highlights

NEW: Nebraska Republican Hagel calls Iraq war "dangerous for our country"
• Clinton says extra troops should go to Afghanistan
• N.Y. Democrat's bill would cap Iraq troop strength at January 1 levels
• Bipartisan group unveils resolution against troop increase in Iraq
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bipartisan trio of senators on Wednesday unveiled a resolution opposing what Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- in proposing a separate bill -- called a "losing strategy" in Iraq.

"This resolution will give every senator a chance to say where he or she stands on the president's plan," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "Iraq is not a partisan issue."

He was joined in presenting the resolution by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan.

"We need to change course," said Clinton, D-New York, who proposed a bill to cap troop levels in Iraq. (Watch to see if Clinton's proposal is 'presidential' Video)

Clinton, just back from a trip to U.S. military facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany, urged the Bush administration to return its focus to Afghanistan.

"It would be a great irony if the administration's emphasis on escalating our presence in Iraq caused it to ignore the threat facing Afghanistan, where those responsible for planning the September 11 attacks are still our enemies," Clinton said at an afternoon news conference.

"The president's team is pursuing a failed strategy in Iraq as it edges closer to collapse."

Speaking on CNN's "The Situation Room," Hagel said Congress needs to be more assertive in determining U.S. policy regarding what he called a civil war in Iraq.

"We are no longer just going to quietly stand by, as we have done for the last four years, and let our young men and women be thrown into this conflict when they cannot affect the outcome," Hagel told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"This is the biggest issue facing our country since Vietnam," Hagel added. "It's dividing our nation. It is dangerous for our country. It's dangerous for the world. The Congress needs to be part of this."

The Biden-Hagel-Levin resolution says that "U.S. strategy and presence on the ground in Iraq can only be sustained with the support of the American people and bipartisan support from Congress."

"It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating U.S. troop presence in Iraq."

During a news conference announcing the resolution, Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran who is a leading Republican voice on foreign policy issues, called the president's plan "dangerously irresponsible."

Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said Iraq has a poor track record of meeting its commitments and benchmarks.

Deploying more troops is not a "recipe for success," he said, and would only postpone Iraqis from taking their future into their own hands.

Levin said only Iraqi political leaders, not U.S. military personnel, can end the violence in Iraq.

Biden said Iraqi leaders must be forced to deal with their own "political realities."

Passing the resolution would signal the seriousness of sentiment against an Iraq troop increase, Biden said. He said a Foreign Relations Committee vote was likely next week, after Bush's State of the Union address.

One Republican opponent of a troop increase, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, said he opposes the resolution because it uses the word "escalating," which he said is a partisan term used by Democrats that "unnecessarily inflames the resolution." (Watch why 'escalate' is a key word Video)

Biden, Levin and Hagel said the wording could be changed to make the resolution more palatable.

The resolution is not expected to offer any alternative to Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq for deployment primarily in Baghdad.

Clinton's bill would cap the number of troops in Iraq at their January 1 level and require the president to seek congressional approval before sending more troops, Clinton said Wednesday.

Clinton said Iraq's government "is not committed to taking the steps both militarily and politically that would help them to gain control over Baghdad and other places in the country."

She said Washington should cut off financial support for the Iraqi government until it does so.

Clinton's legislation is similar to a bill introduced Wednesday by another Democrat, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, that would cap troop levels in Iraq at existing numbers.

House GOP trying to block cuts to war funding

On the other side of the Capitol, House Republicans plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would prohibit Congress from cutting off money for troops in the field. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, will sponsor the bill.

Boehner argued that the president's Iraq strategy deserves a full hearing and called on Democratic leaders who are criticizing it to offer their own plan.

"And for those who don't agree with the president's plan, what's their alternative, what's their plan?" he asked. "We have a new majority in the House and Senate, and I think that at some point they need to begin acting like a majority. And that means that if you don't approve of the president's idea and his plan, you're required, really, to put one forward. And we've not seen that yet."

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said Johnson's experience in Vietnam gives him insight into the debate on money for the Iraq war.

"He knows what it feels like sitting in a cell when Congress cuts off funding for a war, and he'll never let that happen again," Cantor said.

In response to Republican criticism, Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said, "It sounds like [Republicans are] trying to play politics. We've said repeatedly we support funding for troops in the field."

Countering Boehner's claim that Democrats don't have an alternative plan for Iraq, Daly said that the party has been saying for months it's for "responsible redeployment" of troops out of Iraq.

"That's the united position. We've written several letters to the president," he said, pointing to the letter Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, sent to Bush before last week's Iraq speech.

CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Hank Bishop, Andrea Koppel and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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