Democrats back away from Iraq plan

Democratic leaders backed away from aggressive plans to limit President Bush's war authority, the latest sign of divisions within their ranks over how to proceed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday he wanted to delay votes on a measure that would repeal the 2002 war authorization and narrow the mission in Iraq.

Senior Democrats who drafted the proposal, including Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan, had sought swift action on it as early as this week, when the Senate takes up a measure to enact the recommendations of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission.

Reid, who will huddle with Democrats Tuesday to discuss whether to postpone the Iraq debate, cited pressure from victims' families for quick action on the Sept. 11 bill as the reason for doing so.

"Iraq is going to be there — it's just a question of when we get back to it," Reid said, predicting it would be "days, not weeks" before the Senate returned to the issue. The war reauthorization legislation also appears to lack the 60 votes it would need to pass the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., meanwhile, said she doesn't support tying war funding to strict training and readiness targets for U.S. troops.

The comments distanced her from Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., who has said he wants to use Congress' spending power to force a change in policy in Iraq, by setting strict conditions on war funding.

Pelosi said she supports holding the administration to training and readiness targets, but added: "I don't see them as conditions to our funding. Let me be very clear: Congress will fund our troops."

The developments on both sides of the Capitol reflected a new level of disarray in Democratic ranks on Iraq. Democrats have seen their efforts falter under a reality more complicated than they found on the campaign trail.

Internal divisions, Republican opposition and a president who — while weakened — still appears to have the dominant voice on the war have all left Democrats flailing for a way to change the war's course.

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