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Republican leader warns that progress in Iraq must come soon

Sunday, May 6, 2007 

WASHINGTON: The house Republican leader, Representative John Boehner, warned Sunday that unless progress was evident in Iraq by early autumn, many Republican lawmakers would begin losing patience.

His comments appeared significant at a time when the Democratic-controlled Congress is wrestling with President George W. Bush over his request for about $100 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some Democrats favor the idea of providing funding only until September, when the administration has promised a detailed progress report.

Boehner, a conservative from Ohio, said that it would take months to assess President George W. Bush's troop-increase plan.

"We don't even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet," he said on Fox television, "so we're supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of succeeding." And there were early signs of success, he said.

But, Boehner added, "by the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?"

Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership, pointed to Boehner's comment as a significant reflection of fading support for the war.

Schumer said that Democratic leaders, who with their Republican counterparts are negotiating with the White House on a war-funding bill to replace the version vetoed by Bush - who refused to accept its timelines for troop withdrawal - were unbowed.

"We have to force a change in direction in Iraq," Schumer said on CNN. "What Congressman Boehner said, I believe, means we're going to get that change in direction."

A Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, also said he sensed increasing Republican skepticism about the Bush approach to Iraq.

"So we may disagree politically here," he said on Fox, "but remember where the American public is on this issue: They want a change." While Republican defections would be significant, the Democrats themselves are riven on how exactly to proceed on Iraq.

Another Democratic presidential aspirant, John Edwards, has called for the Democratic leadership to keep resubmitting the vetoed bill to Bush.

Edwards was asked on ABC about the criticism of some fellow Democrats that his approach amounted to "cynical political theater" that might end up with the Democrats being blamed by American voters for cutting off funding needed by troops.

"It's not the Democrats doing it," Edwards said. "It's the president."

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