The Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 against Bush's troop plan. Panel chairman Joseph Biden said the resolution is only a start.
WASHINGTON - A day after President Bush asked Congress to give his troop buildup in Iraq a chance to work, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 on Wednesday, mostly along party lines, to oppose it.
Even though most Republicans on the panel voted against the nonbinding resolution, they joined Democrats in speaking out against the president's policy during an emotional debate before the vote.
"There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives," said Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the only one of 10 committee Republicans to support the nonbinding measure. Several of the panel's 11 Democrats said they favored stronger legislation to register their opposition to the war.
The resolution, to be debated by the full Senate next week, protests the president's decision to increase military forces in Iraq, and suggests instead that the United States should transfer responsibility for security to Iraqis while U.S. forces focus on such tasks as fighting terrorism.
Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., said more stringent measures were likely to follow.
"Unless the president demonstrates very quickly that he is unlikely to continue down the road he's on, this will be only the first step. ...
"I will be introducing ... constitutionally legitimate, binding pieces of legislation. We will bring them up," he said.
Taken together, the committee's vote and remarks to CNN by Vice President Dick Cheney -- "The president has made his decision" -- suggested that the Democrats and the White House were on a collision course.
Bush has called for adding 17,500 troops in Baghdad to hold down sectarian violence long enough for Iraq to achieve a political solution. He also plans to add 4,000 Marines in Anbar Province, a hotbed of the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency.
Biden said he'd negotiate with Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who offered a similar resolution against the military increase, about melding their language into one resolution to draw broader bipartisan support. Biden eliminated one word Wednesday that Republicans found objectionable, changing "escalating" the military force to "increasing" it.
Biden, who has announced he intends to run for president in 2008, said the legislation is "not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It's an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."
'We are moving forward'
Asked about the troop buildup during an interview with CNN, Cheney said: "We are moving forward. The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding. But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision."
The vice president added: "We've consulted extensively with them. We'll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done."
Inside the Senate committee, all Republicans but Hagel opposed the measure, denying Democrats the strong bipartisan vote they had sought.
Some committee Republicans tried to temper the measure before it was approved. Additionally, more than a half-dozen GOP lawmakers in the Senate have signaled interest in an alternative that expresses disagreement with the president's policy rather than deeming it not in the national interest.
"The thing that I'm deeply concerned about is putting American troops in the middle of this -- the cross-hairs of this sectarian battle before the Iraqis" deliver on a series of promised reforms, said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
While he said he opposes deploying additional troops in Baghdad, Coleman added he wants to leave open the possibility of a larger force in Anbar Province in the western part of the country.