Tennessean - BILL THEOBALD
WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander will announce today that he is joining with a Democratic colleague to push for a consensus on the future of U.S. policy in Iraq.
Alexander, who has become increasingly critical of President Bush's Iraq strategy, will join Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado in introducing legislation that would put into law the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Alexander aide Matt Sonnesyn said that the two senators would send a joint letter to their colleagues and make speeches announcing their plans to introduce the legislation after the debate over a bill to provide supplemental funding for the war is resolved.
Policy debate sought
"Once we put the politics of the supplemental behind us, we can have a real debate about our policy going forward in Iraq," Sonnesyn said. He expects the legislation to be introduced in mid-June.
In March, Alexander said in a floor speech that "It is time for President Bush to take the Iraq Study Group report down off the shelf and use it for something other than a bookend."
The study group, commissioned by Bush, was under co-chairmen Republican James Baker III, President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.
The report it released in December included 79 recommendations that ranged from a diplomatic offensive that would deal with the broader problems in the Middle East to the setting of milestones for the Iraq government to solve its internal problems.
Although diplomatic efforts have been stepped up in recent weeks, President Bush has focused mainly on a surge in U.S. troops to secure the Baghdad area and reduce violence among rival factions.
Bush vetoed a supplemental war-funding bill last week that included a timetable for troop withdrawals.
Alexander supports moving the U.S. military's role from combat to support, Sonnesyn said, and voted against the legislation with the withdrawal timetable.
"We need a political solution here in Washington as much as we do in Baghdad," he said.