ABC News - Jake Tapper
Almost six months after former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana presented a comprehensive strategy for Iraq known as the Iraq Study Group recommendations -- which President Bush did not quite enthusiastically embrace -- a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation Tuesday to use the group's recommendations as the foundation for future U.S. policy in Iraq.
Perhaps most notably the bill -- which is supported by several conservative Republicans -- aims to begin the withdrawal of U.S. combat brigades by early 2008 if certain benchmarks are met.
"We really need a political situation in Washington, D.C., as we do in Baghdad," one of the authors of the bill, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told ABC News. "I'm trying to give [the president] an option. I hope he regards this as a friendly gesture, something he can embrace after a few weeks."
Asked how much longer Republican senators would show patience with the president's surge strategy, Alexander said, "Not too much longer."
Press for Iraq Withdrawal in 2008
Alexander and Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., are leading the bipartisan group, which includes Democratic Sens. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Republican Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah, Judd Gregg and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
The bill, which the senators said has been approved by Baker and Hamilton, would also create an Iraq International Support Group for diplomacy; make training, equipping and advising the Iraqi military and security forces the first U.S. priority; create a new senior adviser position for economic reconstruction in Iraq; and mandate that the president include the cost of the war in his annual budget request instead of making it a supplemental item.
Referring to reports of some U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran and Syria, Alexander said that the president is "almost backing into the Iraq Study Group recommendations."
"Well, if that's the case," the Tennessee Republican continued, "why not embrace it and use it as a basis for a longer-term but limited presence in Iraq?"
Pressing for Action
Democrats have promised to add some sort of Iraq proposal to the forthcoming defense authorization for 2008.
Speaking just off the Senate floor Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he appreciates the gesture from the Republicans, and while he supports more forceful action, he did not discount the proposal from Alexander and Salazar.
"I appreciate the bipartisan nature of those who believe this should go forward," Reid told reporters. "And it's one of the things we're taking a look at. Certainly, I believe that should be something much stronger than that. But that certainly is good."
Reid, who brought forth a number of varying withdrawal proposals before the Senate prior to legislation that did not include such a condition, added, "I'm glad to see even Republicans acknowledging the president should have accepted that from the patriots who came up with that months ago. He shouldn't have ignored it."
Casey added in a statement that "unless we achieve more bipartisan consensus in the Congress that a change is necessary, an impasse will continue."
In the House, Reps. Mark Udall, D-Colo, and Frank Wolf, R-Va., are working on companion legislation.