On the eve of Bush's State of the Union address, Sen. John Warner, an influential Republican on military affairs, introduced a bipartisan...

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WASHINGTON — On the eve of Bush’s State of the Union address, Sen. John Warner, an influential Republican on military affairs, introduced a bipartisan resolution Monday that opposes President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more American troops to Iraq and urges shifting U.S. soldiers out of the middle of the sectarian killings that are raging in Baghdad.

Warner’s resolution came as Republicans in the House of Representatives said they wanted Bush to certify on a monthly basis whatever progress was being made in Iraq on military, political and social benchmarks.

Combined with near-unanimous Democratic opposition to Bush’s war policy, the Republican stands show a broad bipartisan lack of confidence in the president’s course.

Under the president’s plan, U.S. troops would be asked to help stop the death squads and bombings now racking Baghdad.

“I feel ever so strongly that the American GI was not trained, not sent over there, certainly not by resolution of this institution, to be placed in the middle of a fight between the Sunni and the Shi’a and the wanton and just incomprehensible killing that’s going on at this time,” Warner said.

House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who supports Bush’s troop increase, made the recommendation for a monthly benchmark report in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and proposed that Pelosi create a bipartisan select committee to oversee the reports.

“Congress cannot and must not dictate the strategies or methods used in war,” Boehner’s letter said, “but we have a duty to the American people to candidly and honestly assess whether our efforts have been successful.”

While the resolution drafted by Warner, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and supported by Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., could pull support from a more strongly worded resolution of no confidence in Bush’s Iraq policy that Democratic Senate leaders are promoting, it also could be the starting point for negotiations. Unlike a resolution proposed last week by Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Warner’s resolution avoids the politically loaded term “escalation.” It uses the word “augment” to describe the president’s increase in forces.

Webb: New Orleans has been overlooked

Democrats intend to make the war a part of their formal response to Bush’s nationally televised speech, tapping Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a Vietnam veteran and former Republican Navy secretary, to speak.

A pugnacious former boxer, Webb made headlines by rebuffing Bush’s attempt to ask about Webb’s son at a White House reception with a call to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Webb suggested Monday that the United States is ignoring the rebuilding of New Orleans, which, he said, has languished in the nearly 17 months since Hurricane Katrina.

“If we’re putting all this money into Iraq and ignoring New Orleans, then we’re doing something wrong,” he told reporters during a teleconference, although he stopped short of calling for money earmarked for Iraq to be diverted to New Orleans.

Webb, who won election in a state Bush carried by 9 percentage points in 2004, said he believes the Bush administration mishandled the city’s recovery and said the city’s struggles have “kind of fallen off the national radar screen over the last year.” Webb would not say what additional resources the city needed or whether he would bring up New Orleans during his rebuttal address Tuesday night.

The Associated Press

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