Observing that Senate majority leader Harry Reid was unable to muster enough votes Wednesday to invoke cloture for an up-or-down vote on the Democrats' Levin-Reed amendment, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in a conference call with the Flyer and other news outlets, "It is obvious by now that the Senate won't approve timed withdrawal. Now is the time to look for seeds of consensus. The best way is Baker-Hamilton."
That was the senator's shorthand for the Iraq Study Group report, released in January by a blue-ribbon bipartisan group of foreign policy experts. Alexander, along with Senator Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, has proposed an alternate amendment based on the Iraq Study Group's conclusions, which call for a permanent commitment to Iraq but one which employs fewer troops than at present and would locate them out of combat roles.
Alexander, who took part in the overnight debate on Levin-Reed called by Reid, told reporters the affair was a "stunt" and likened it to an "all-night slumber party on C-SPAN." But he was critical of the Bush administration's adamant position as well, saying, "The White House is missing the point that the Iraq Study Group report adds to the possibility of his having an understanding with the country."
But, asked whether the Congress shouldnt have ultimate authority over issues of war and peace, Alexander said, as he had in his overnight remarks, that he gave the president room for the exercise of his "constitutional prerogatives." Only the Congress could vote a declaration of war, Alexander said, but "just for practical reasons we don't need 100 generals. If we adopt the Baker-Hamilton proposals, we can put the train on a different track and still leave him [Bush] as the engineer."
The senator said he hoped that the Salazar-Alexander amendment could be re-introduced in September, a time when General David Petraeus, now commanding in Iraq, will presumably have made his situation report to Congress on the results of the current "surge" policy.