Archive for November 13th, 2006

The incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), told reporters today that his first priority will be to pressure President Bush to “change the course in Iraq.”

Meanwhile, Bush left an Oval Office meeting today with members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group – including his father’s former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton – vowing not to “prejudge” the report it’s set to release sometime before the year’s end.

“I’m not sure what the report is going to say,” Bush told reporters today. “I look forward to seeing it.”

Earlier, White House spokesman told reporters that the meeting, closed to the press and public, wasn’t a “deposition.”

“Further, Snow said there was not a presentation of alternatives but rather an assessment of the situation on the ground now,” the Associated Press reported.
But Levin’s press conference today signals that Democrats plan to use their congressional election victories to try to influence a “different course” in Iraq.
“The first priority would be to find a way forward to change the course in Iraq,” Levin said at a press conference. “That’s the message that came through so clearly and powerfully last Tuesday from the American people.”

Levin said that “most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months.”

Beginning “that phased redeployment,” Levin stated, would “make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open-ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation.”

Levin said that “we’re getting deeper and deeper into a hole – that we should stop digging and that we should look for alternatives in order to promote the chances of success in Iraq.”

Over the weekend, the White House seemed to hint that it would be open to listening to Democrats on Iraq.

“We clearly need a fresh approach,” Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten admitted on a morning talk show.


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Pelosi backs Murtha for majority leader

Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw her support behind Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for majority leader Sunday, giving a significant boost to Murtha in his race against Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count on you to continue to lead on these vital issues,” Pelosi wrote Murtha Sunday in a letter obtained by The Hill. “For this and for all you have done for Democrats in the past and especially this last year, I am pleased to support your candidacy for majority leader for the 110th Congress.”

As the House Democrats’ unchallenged leader, Pelosi has considerable sway over her colleagues. She and Murtha have long been close allies, but until now, she had not interfered in the majority leader race.

Her endorsement has the potential to turn the race,especially if she chooses to campaign on Murtha’s behalf. Pelosi’s decision to back Murtha is the most significant move she has made since Democrats scored a historic victory on Election Day.

Reacting to the letter, Hoyer said her support for Murtha was no surprise.
“Nancy told me some time ago that she would personally support Jack. I respect her decision as the two are very close,” Hoyer said in a statement. “I am grateful for the support I have from my colleagues, and have the majority of the caucus supporting me. I look forward to working with Speaker Pelosi as Majority Leader.”

Murtha thanked Pelosi for her support: “I am deeply gratified to receive the support of Speaker Pelosi, a tireless advocate for change and a true leader for our Party and our country.”

In an interview on the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers” earlier this fall, Murtha said that Pelosi would determine who ultimately would become majority leader.
Asked at the time whether the “person who will win this [race] is the person who gets the tap on the shoulder” from Pelosi, Murtha said, “I think that’s probably true. … We have a close relationship but we’ll see what happens.”
Pelosi’s endorsement signals that she will likely not opt to resolve the majority leader race before Thursday’s scheduled elections. Some had lobbied her to negotiate an outcome in the same way she averted a fractious race between Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) for majority whip.

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