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Kennedy calls for oversight on Iraq troop surge

WASHINGTON --Senator Edward M. Kennedy today called for Congress to require President Bush to submit his plan for a troop surge in Iraq to the House and Senate before it can be implemented, arguing that Democrats must make good on their campaign promise to bring an end to the war.

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club this afternoon, the Massachusetts Democrat outlined a bill he plans to introduce that would prevent a troop escalation and additional funding for such a move until it is approved by Congress.

"We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it," Kennedy said, according to excerpts released by his office. "The president may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq."

It’s unclear whether Kennedy’s plan has enough support to pass Congress. Democratic leaders have been hesitant to try to dictate war policy -- some have even suggested that such efforts may be unconstitutional -- and have been particularly careful to rule out cutting off funding for American troops who are deployed overseas.

But Kennedy’s bill -- coming from a prominent and consistent war critic -- could rally Democratic opposition to the troop surge that the president is expected to outline in a nationally televised address tomorrow night. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested that Congress may use its power of the purse to prevent a troop build-up, though she hasn’t delved into the specifics of such a proposal.

In his speech, Kennedy said that his bill would not impact funding for any troops who are already in Iraq. But, after a congressional election where Democrats rode to power in large part because of anti-war sentiments, he said that the public deserves a vote on the path forward in Iraq.

"Let us hear the arguments for it and against it," he said in prepared remarks. "Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear -- yes or no -- where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time."

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