Support among Republicans for President Bush's Iraq policy eroded further Thursday as another senior lawmaker, Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, broke with the White House just as congressional Democrats prepared to renew their challenge to the war.
"We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress," said Domenici, a six-term senator who until now has been a steadfast supporter of the president.
With his call for a change in course, Domenici joined a growing number of Republican voices in opposition to the war just as Senate Democratic leaders are readying plans to put the political and policy focus back on Iraq next week. The Democrats intend to use a Pentagon policy measure to force votes on proposals limiting spending on the conflict and setting a timetable for withdrawing most troops by next year — an idea Bush has vetoed.
And Domenici made clear Thursday that he did not support such measures either, saying, "I'm not calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops, but I am calling for a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to continuing home."
Still, within hours after Domenici spoke to reporters in a conference call, Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, called on him to join Democrats and like-minded Republicans to bring the war to a close.
"Beginning with the defense authorization bill next week, Republicans will have the opportunity to not just say the right things on Iraq, but vote the right way, too,"Reid said, "so that we can bring the responsible end to this war that the American people demand and deserve."
Domenici is up for re-election in 2008, and his views on the war are likely to be prominently in the campaign. His turnabout followed similar calls for a new Iraq policy last week by Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, and by Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, another member of that panel. Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, a respected Republican voice on military issues who is also facing re-election, has also been pressing the administration to shift course.