Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) has been a strong supporter of President Bush’s Iraq policies. In April, he voted against legislation to set deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Today at a press conference in Albuquerque, Domenici announced a shift in his policies, stating that he now supports decreasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. From his press release:
I want a new strategy for Iraq. I continue to completely support the men and women in the American Armed Forces. They have not failed us. It is the Iraqi government that is failing to make even modest progress to help Iraq itself or to merit the sacrifices being made by our men and women in uniform. I am unwilling to continue our current strategy.
I have carefully studied the Iraq situation, and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward. I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.
Domenici has decided to cosponsor S.1545, which embraces the recommendations in the Iraq Study Group Report. It calls for creating the conditions that could allow for a drawdown of combat forces by March of 2008, but does not set a deadline.
This shift is significant for Domenici, who is up for re-election in 2008. In January, he said that he was “willing to give the [escalation] plan the President has outlined a chance.” In June 2006, Domenici stated, “I reject any notion that setting a definite timetable for withdrawal would be a good idea. I believe it would merely encourage the terrorists within Iraq, hamstring the Iraqi civil authorities, and draw more foreign terrorists to Iraq.”
Domenici joins Republican senators George Voinovich (OH) and John Warner (VA), who have indicated support for legislation to draw down U.S. involvement in Iraq. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) also recently criticized the President, stating that the United States must “downsize the U.S. military’s role in Iraq and place much more emphasis on diplomatic and economic options.”
For a progressive exit strategy from Iraq, the Center for American Progress has a Strategic Reset plan that would withdraw virtually all U.S. troops within one year.
UPDATE: Heath Haussamen has more.
UPDATE II: Atrios has doubts on whether Domenici will actually live up to his rhetoric: “[T]rying to change our Iraq policy involves more than just getting behind some piece of legislation or another which is unlikely to pass. It involves a willingness to get behind just about anything that forces a change in policy, even if you’re not fully on board with those things because you consider them to be better than the status quo of “staying the course” to preserve the fragile ego of the idiot manchild.”
UPDATE III: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued this statement:
Senator Domenici is correct to assess that the Administration’s war strategy is misguided. But we will not see a much-needed change of course in Iraq until Republicans like Senators Domenici, Lugar and Voinovich are willing to stand up to President Bush and his stubborn clinging to a failed policy — and more importantly, back up their words with action. 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 so that we can bring the responsible end to this war that the American people demand and deserve.