Sanders calls Democratic Iraq strategy a mistake

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says he thinks Senate Democratic leaders are making a mistake with their new strategy on the Iraq war.

In an effort to attract Republican votes, the Democrats are prepared to back legislation that doesn’t include specific troop withdrawal timetables.

Sanders says the changes could cause some senators, including him, to vote against the proposal.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says a new strategy is needed because the Democrats simply don’t have the votes to block a filibuster or override a presidential veto on legislation that sets deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in the near future.

So Democratic leaders are drafting a new approach in an effort to persuade a group of moderate Republicans to join them.

Instead of setting a binding deadline to begin the withdrawal of troops next spring, the legislation would describe this action as a goal.

It’s also unlikely that the plan will establish a firm deadline for the removal of most troops by the end of next year.

Sanders, who’s been a strong critic of the Iraq war, doesn’t like this new approach.

(Sanders) "I don’t agree with that strategy. I think this war has been a disaster for a number of reasons I think we’ve got to bring our troops home as soon as possible. And I’ll be supporting legislation that does just that. Our job has got to be to rally the American people to put pressure on the Republicans, so that they begin to vote the right way which is to bring our troops home."

(Kinzel) Sanders says Democratic leaders run the risk of attracting moderate Republicans to their bill but losing some of the more liberal members of the Senate.

(Sanders) "To my mind what you want is something substantive, that is you want a timeline. You want to make sure that our troops are coming home within a certain period of time while we continue to support the Iraqi government and their military. And I think if you water down this too much and it loses substance I’m not quite sure what you have gained."

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy’s office says Leahy will also have a very difficult time backing compromise legislation that doesn’t create specific deadlines for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The issue is expected to come before the full Senate as early as next week.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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