From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi.
Even as the House moves closer to handing President Bush a symbolic thumping on his planned troop increase in Iraq, it shares the spotlight today with Bush himself, some posturing Democratic presidential candidates, and a few of the Senate Republicans who were for their chamber's version of the resolution opposing an increase, then voted against it. They're now trying to kill the Senate's upcoming week-long President's Day recess to secure a vote on the measure.
Bush delivers a speech on the global war on terror which, if yesterday's press conference was any indication, will be an effort to give his allies in the House a boost and won't contain any olive branches for opponents of a troop increase. Bush also will talk about Afghanistan, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports -- specifically, about why some troops will have their tours extended to deal with the Taliban threat this spring. And he'll discuss "successes in the war on terror" around the world, including the killing of the leader of al Qaeda-linked group in the Philippines.
Sen. Joe Biden ventures into the spotlight for the first time since he triggered the first media frenzy of the 2008 campaign by calling his colleague Barack Obama "mainstream," "articulate," and "clean." Biden will address the Brookings Institution about Iraq. Rival John Edwards, trying to turn his lack of a Senate platform into a plus, is casting himself as the leading Democratic candidate who is the most opposed to the war.
While Bush speaks and the House debates, Senate Republican opponents of the troop increase continue to try to revive the effort to pass John Warner's non-binding resolution. Warner has been trying, albeit in vain, to kick-start the debate on his resolution by vowing to attach it to any piece of legislation that moves through the chamber, as NBC's Ken Strickland reported here yesterday. Warner even raised the possibility of forgoing the week-long recess next week to vote on various Iraq resolutions.
Now two more GOP opponents of a troop increase, Sens. Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, are trying to kill the recess unless leaders of both parties agree on a framework to vote on the Warner measure. But at the most, Strickland says, their efforts will annoy their colleagues by requiring them to remain on Capitol Hill longer on Thursday to take a vote to overrule Hagel and Snowe's objections to adjourn.
Last week, Hagel, Snowe and Warner all joined the vast majority of their conference last week in voting to block the debate from even starting, saying that their Republican colleagues who wanted to vote on measures supportive of the White House strategy weren't being allowed to do so. Now that they're agitating to kill next week's recess to secure a vote on Warner's resolution, Strickland reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman Jim Manley says that while Reid "appreciates their sense of urgency, the Congress and the country would have been better served had they demonstrated their desire last week."
Warner told reporters recently that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had assured him that there ultimately would be a vote on his resolution: "I voted [against starting the debate] in good faith with the assurance of our leader that he felt quite certain that my resolution would have a chance to be voted up or down. And on that commitment from him - best he could make - I did vote against it."
After the recess, during the week of February 26, Reid plans to bring the House's non-binding resolution to the Senate floor. Earlier this week, he said the Warner resolution could be offered as an amendment to it. At this writing, it's unclear whether Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports Hagel and Snowe's effort, Strickland reports. McConnell is being blamed for making his caucus look obstructionist by blocking the vote.
Also in the Senate today, Iraq is likely to come up in a handful of hearings, including Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings for Bush's nominees to become ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan, and an Armed Services Committee hearing with the generals representing the Army and Marine Corps, who will testify on their current and future readiness.