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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Battle Deferred in Congress

Council on Foreign Relations

February 7, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

The Democrats' failure to push forward a nonbinding resolution that would oppose President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. troops (WashPost) to Iraq has them accusing Republicans of trying to shelve debate on the very issue they rode to victory in last November’s midterm elections. Republicans counter that a full debate will be forthcoming but insist their alternative proposals also be submitted for consideration. At issue is the severity of the resolution’s criticism of the “surge,” as well as a proposal to forestall any future efforts to cut off funding for the war—the only binding leverage Congress retains in such matters. The result, said Joe Lieberman (IND-CT), was “a resolution of irresolution.”

The standoff reflects deep divisions on Capitol Hill over how to proceed with the Iraq War and how Congress should wield wartime powers. Nancy E. Roman, director of CFR’s Washington office, in this Podcast says Congress holds two main levers: It can shape the public debate with its members’ statements and resolutions which serve as a “warning shot over the bow,” and it holds the power of the purse. Many experts, including CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Noah Feldman, believe Congress should stick to oversight because a body of 535 members is “very poorly suited to laying out the order of battle.” The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka sees nothing but politics (Daily Star) beneath the sudden upsurge in congressional interest in foreign policy, while Lawrence J. Korb at the Center for American Progress says Congress is only now doing the job it should have been doing since 9/11. “Congress can and should use its power to cut off funding for troop escalation and begin the process of redeploying troops.”

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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