Salazar, Alexander to push for vote on Iraq group’s war proposal |

Salazar, Alexander to push for vote on Iraq group’s war proposal

Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON (AP) ” As the Senate begins a contentious debate over Iraq, Democrat Ken Salazar of Colorado said Tuesday he and Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander will push a proposal that could allow the U.S. to begin pulling back troops by March.

Salazar said they will offer the plan as an amendment to next year’s military spending bill, which lawmakers are expected to haggle over for the next week or more.

Emboldened by the public’s growing distaste for the war, several Democrats are pushing for a date to withdraw troops. Salazar and Alexander’s measure does not set a date but proposes making the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations the U.S. strategy for the war.

The group recommended a series of benchmarks Iraqis would have to meet for continued U.S. support. If all the steps were followed, the panel said, most troops could begin leaving by next spring.

The measure has attracted several prominent Republican co-sponsors, but it was unclear whether the Democratic leadership would allow it to go to a vote.

Several senators view it as a compromise between President Bush’s increasingly unpopular strategy and Democrats’ demands.

The Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel of political and policy experts, issued a report in December emphasizing a bigger role for diplomacy in the effort to stabilize Iraq.

Despite the initial flurry of attention, the recommendations soon were relegated to the wings.

But as Republicans ” including several facing potentially tough re-election fights ” have searched for an out, some key senators have signed onto the Salazar proposal. Last week, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., became the latest to criticize Bush’s handling of the war and call for a strategy shift that would bring troops home faster.

Others who have already said they would back the bill are Republican Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

A companion bill in the House was sponsored by Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo, who is running for the Senate.

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