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Bipartisan House Group Offers Iraq Plan

With the House expected to return soon to debating the Iraq War as it considers another supplemental spending bill, a cadre of moderate Democrats and Republicans proposed guidelines Tuesday aimed at producing a bipartisan agreement to begin troop withdrawals while not forcing a specific end date to U.S. military involvement in the conflict.

“It’s the concept of trying to work together and answer problems in Iraq” without prompting a political fight, said Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who has led the effort along with Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.).

The one-page “Bipartisan Compact on Iraq Debate” is made up of eight principles that include support for the redeployment of military personnel from Iraq in conjunction with continued diplomatic efforts, but does not support a hard timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops.

“We agree that the U.S. Congress must end the political infighting over the conflict in Iraq and commit immediately to a truly bipartisan dialogue on the issues we are facing,” the document states.

The compact, signed by 28 lawmakers, urges the implementation of a “clearly defined and measurable mission” to continue the Iraq War, as well as the continued use of benchmarks to determine progress of both the U.S. mission as well as the Iraqi government’s efforts to take responsibility for that country’s future.

In addition, the lawmakers endorsed a plan that would require “adequate rest and recuperation periods” for military and reserve personnel. The Senate recently failed to invoke cloture to end debate on a similar proposal by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) that would have required soldiers to receive rest periods equal to that of their deployments.

While the guidelines also call for a “safe and responsible redeployment of U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq,” the group has not endorsed a hard timeline for that to occur, something that liberal Democrats have strongly backed.

Moreover, the group condemned any suggestion that funding for military personnel in Iraq be eliminated, asserting that such a proposal would “put at risk the safety and security of our service members.”

Both House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) conferred with members of the bipartisan group last week.

“We believe the American public did not sign up for decades of presence in Iraq and are expecting us to change our policy and our direction, and so we’re going to work with the Republicans and with whomever else wants to do that,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly press conference, noting that aides are reviewing legislation options.

The bipartisan group also includes Democratic Reps. Gene Taylor (Miss.), Bud Cramer (Ala.), Marion Berry (Ark.), Allen Boyd (Fla.), Brian Baird (Wash.), Nick Lampson (Texas), Dennis Moore (Kan.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike Ross (Ark.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Dan Boren (Okla.) and Jim Costa (Calif.).

Republican Members who signed on include Reps. Tom Petri (Wis.), Christopher Shays (Conn.), Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Phil English (Pa.), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Sue Myrick (N.C.), Judy Biggert (Ill.), Timothy Johnson (Ill.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.) and Charlie Dent (Pa.).

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