Democrats plot new anti-war assault
Anti-war Democrats this week launch a new search for 60 Senate votes, the magic and so far elusive threshold needed to challenge President George W Bush's strategy to prolong the Iraq war.
Despite grabbing control of Congress last November, Democrats have repeatedly failed in their attempts to accept binding deadlines for the withdrawal of most combat troops in the war-torn nation.
Now, they have to regroup, after being outmanoeuvred in August and early September by the White House, and war commander General David Petraeus's judgement last week that the current troop escalation strategy was a success.
Democratic leaders appear to have dropped their attempt to force the president to accept binding Iraq troop withdrawal deadlines next year.
Instead, they may specify merely a "goal" of withdrawing troops by sometime early next year -- or just leave the final departure date open, Senate sources said.
Some Democrats, notably 2008 presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama, and liberal Senator Russ Feingold, have vowed to fight on for binding troop withdrawal timetables -- signalling a fierce inter-party battle.
In various plans being discussed behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, according to Congressional sources, Democrats are plotting a backdoor attack on Bush's war fighting powers.
By the Democratic script, September was supposed to have been the month, when constant pressure on wavering Republican senators broke the back of Bush's support for the war in Congress.
But a savvy public relations campaign by the White House, and testimony by Petraeus and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker last week allowed the administration to claim progress in the war and shore up Republican support.
It now looks unlikely that Democrats are anywhere near persuading the eight or nine Republican senators they need to reach 60 votes in the Senate to overcome Republican obstruction tactics -- much less the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
Veteran Democratic Senator Joseph Biden told reporters Friday Democrats would embark on a three-pronged anti-war strategy next week.