WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House said Friday that Democrats should not try to revoke Congress' 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq and that pulling U.S. troops out would bring chaos.
``We think the resolution that is in place is operative,'' White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, referring to the congressional authorization for Bush to use the armed forces to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iraq. ``We're operating under a mandate.''
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the White House is not only confused, but in denial.
``They can spin all they want, but the fact is that President Bush is ignoring a bipartisan majority of Congress, his own military commanders, and the American public in escalating the war,'' said Jim Manley. ``The American people have demanded a change of course in Iraq and Democrats are committed to holding President Bush accountable.''
The wording of the Democrats' measure _ for instance whether it would try to revoke Bush's authority for the war or merely tailor it more narrowly _ remains unsettled. One version would restrict American troops to fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network, training Iraqi army and police forces, maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity and hastening the withdrawal of combat forces.
Reid, D-Nev., intends to present the proposal to fellow Democrats next week. He is expected to try to add the measure to anti-terrorism legislation scheduled to be debated later.
Fratto argued that changes in the resolution were unnecessary even though it was drafted in the days when Saddam Hussein was in power and there was an assumption _ later proved false _ that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The White House said that Democrats were in a state of confusion about Iraq but left room for compromise.
``There's a lot of ... shifting sands in the Democrats' position right now,'' Fratto said. ``We'll see what Democrats decide to do.''
He said the president would judge anything that comes out of Congress by whether it gives him ``the flexibility and resources'' necessary to proceed with Bush's decision to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar Province.
``It's clear that if there are efforts to remove troops out of Baghdad, there are consequences for Baghdad,'' Fratto said. ``The only credible analysis that we've seen _ the (National Intelligence Estimate) report and others _ are pretty clear on this, that it would bring chaos to Baghdad.''
Senate Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding measure critical of Bush's troop-increase plan. Asked if Bush would oppose any effort to revoke his war authorization, Fratto said, ``Of course we would.''
In the House, a nonbinding anti-war measure was approved last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects the next challenge to Bush's war policies to be a requirement that the Pentagon adhere to strict training and readiness standards for troops heading for the war zone.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the leading advocate of that approach, has said it would effectively deny Bush the ability to proceed with the troop buildup.
But Bush's Republican allies on Capitol Hill have fought that as denying reinforcements to troops already in the war zone, leading to the alternative approach in the Senate.
The measure Bush won from Congress in 2002 authorized the president to use the armed forces ``as he determines to be necessary and appropriate ... to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq'' and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
At the time, the world body had passed resolutions regarding Iraq's presumed effort to develop weapons of mass destruction.