WASHINGTON - Several Republican senators on Wednesday told President Bush's top national security aide privately Wednesday that they did not want Bush to wait until September to change course in Iraq.
The meeting that lawmakers had with national security adviser Stephen Hadley came as GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel announced they would back Democratic legislation ordering combat to end next spring.
Republican support for the war has steadily eroded in recent weeks as the White House prepares an interim progress report that finds the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has made little progress in meeting major targets of reform.
Of the GOP lawmakers who say the U.S. should reduce its military role in Iraq, nearly all are up for re-election in 2008.
"I'm hopeful they (the White House) change their minds," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
Domenici and at least five other Republicans support a bill by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that would adopt as U.S. policy the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report.
The bipartisan panel, led by Republican James A. Baker III and Democrat Lee Hamilton, said the U.S. should hand off the combat mission to the Iraqis, bolster diplomatic efforts in the region and pave the way for a drawdown of troops by spring 2008.
Domenici, who is expected to face voters next year, said he and other co-sponsors told Hadley the president shouldn't wait until September to adopt the bipartisan policy.
"The only difference of opinion at the moment is, the president wants to deal with the Baker-Hamilton recommendations in September," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of the first GOP co-sponsors.
"I think he should do that today because it develops a long-term strategy for what happens in the surge," added Alexander, who also is up for re-election. "It would put him and Congress on the same path, which is what we definitely need."
Members said Hadley did not indicate the White House would switch gears. Bush this week said he will not reconsider the military strategy in Iraq until Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander there, delivers his progress report in September.
"He was not in a position to do anything other than say 'I hear you,' " Domenici said of Hadley.