Welch backs Iraq withdrawl plan

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says he’s backing an effort to increase pressure on Congressional Republicans to support a plan to withdraw most American troops from Iraq by next spring.

Democratic leaders are planning a series of votes over the next few weeks to highlight the issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Welch says the political landscape in Washington concerning the war in Iraq has changed dramatically in the last few weeks.

During this time period, a number of prominent Republican senators have announced that they no longer support the president’s policy. Many of these Republicans are up for re-election in 2008.

The Democrats’ push to persuade more Republicans to oppose the president’s policies began on Thursday with a bill that calls for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by April first of next year. Welch strongly supported this approach on the floor of the House:

(Welch) “From last November’s elections to public opinions polls to the comments I hear from Vermonters every single day, the voice of the American people is loud, it’s clear. We must end this war and since the president refuses, absolutely refuses to act, Congress must.”

(Kinzel) In a later interview, Welch said the troop bill is just the first step in an overall strategy to put more pressure on Congressional Republicans.

Future votes will call for the closing of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay and the opposition of permanent military bases in Iraq:

(Welch) “President Bush is fomenting fear of the future to justify his failure to exercise his responsibility for the present policy. And what he’s willing to do basically is go down with the ship and take everybody on board with him. Congress can’t let him do that to the American people.”

(Kinzel) Welch says it’s clear that the Democrats will need the support of more Republicans to change policies in Iraq.

(Welch) “The president is now the obstacle. But to overcome the president’s refusal to change policy, we’re going to have to work with Republicans because we need 290 votes to overcome a presidential veto.”

(Kinzel) Judging from the debate in the House over the troop withdrawal bill, there are still a number of moderate Republicans who oppose the approach taken by the Democrats.

Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays:

(Shays) “There are two things I agree on. We need to bring our troops home and we need a deadline to do that. But this deadline begins in 120 days and concludes by April of next year, guaranteeing absolute failure, laying waste to all of the investment that we’ve talked about.”

(Kinzel) Welch says he hopes the Democrats will bring many of these bills up for a vote before the Congressional recess in August.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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