Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., proposed Thursday that Congress repeal the authority it gave President Bush in 2002 to invade Iraq, injecting presidential politics into the congressional debate over war funding.
Clinton’s proposal in effect brings her full circle on Iraq, and sharpens her own political positioning at a time when the Democratic Party is increasingly willing to confront the White House on the war.
“It is time to reverse the failed policies of President Bush and to end this war as soon as possible,” said Clinton as she joined Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., in calling for a vote on a plan to terminate the authority as of Oct. 11, the fifth anniversary of the original vote.
Her proposal emerged just as congressional leaders and the White House opened delicate negotiations over the just-vetoed war resolution and illustrated the varied views by Democrats on how to proceed in the aftermath of Bush’s decision.
Much of the focus on Thursday in forging a new spending measure was on the idea of imposing requirements — or so-called benchmarks — on the Iraqi government to show progress in securing the political and military security of their country. Leading Republicans said they were open to that approach.
The move by Clinton appeared to be an effort to claim a new leadership position among the Democratic presidential candidates against the war in Iraq.
It came just a few hours after Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Democratic leader, had praised the presidential contenders in the Senate for not using the Senate as a platform for airing their differences on the war. It also shows that Democrats, with their core supporters strongly opposing the war, are leery of being seen as giving too much ground to Bush in the legislative fight.
Clinton had been an enthusiastic supporter for the war early on, but she has turned into a staunch critic of the Bush administration’s performance on Iraq.
She has been saying that she granted Bush the authority to go to war based on intelligence reports at the time. Since then, she has explained that those reports proved wrong.
Now, Clinton’s advisers say, a vote to revoke authorization for the war would make plain to anti-war and liberal Democrats that she was repudiating her 2002 vote. The hope among her aides was that demands by anti-war voters for her to apologize for her vote would be rendered moot.
Clinton’s vote for the original authorization has been a persistent problem in her presidential bid when contrasted with the positions of other Democratic contenders.
Former Sen. John Edwards has repudiated his vote for the war. After Byrd and Clinton announced their plan, Edwards quickly put out a statement urging Congress to focus on withdrawing troops and not revoking the 2002 authorization. “Congress should stand its ground and not back down to him,” Edwards said. “They should send him the same bill he just vetoed, one that supports our troops, ends the war, and brings them home.”