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US Democrats see support for anti-Rumsfeld vote

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Sep 3 (Reuters) There is substantial support among US Senate Democrats for a resolution demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a senior Democrat said today.

''I believe there is a lot of sentiment to push for such a resolution, indeed,'' New York Sen. Charles Schumer said on Fox News Sunday.

Senate Democrats are expected to discuss this week whether to push for a vote of no confidence in Rumsfeld as part of a pre-election offensive on what they see as the Bush administration's mishandling of the Iraq war.

A similar resolution against the defense secretary is being considered by House Democrats.

Democrats are in the minority in the Senate and the House, meaning they would face difficulties getting such resolutions on the floor. Even if such a resolution passed, it would not be binding on President George W Bush's administration.

But the Democrats, hoping to win back control of at least one chamber in November mid-term elections, are seeking to attack the Republicans over the deteriorating security situation in Iraq three years into the US war there.

California Democrat Sen Barbara Boxer has vowed to offer a resolution calling on Bush to name a new defense secretary, saying she was outraged by Rumsfeld's comments that appeared to compare Iraq war critics to appeasers of Nazi Germany.

Rumsfeld says his remarks in a speech last week were misrepresented.

Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee for the November congressional elections, said the resolution would send a ''very simple'' message.

''It says that our policies are not going well,'' he said. He noted that it was not just Democrats that have called for Rumsfeld to step down -- a Republican candidate for the Senate from New Jersey, Thomas H Kean Jr, did so yesterday.

''And the reason is not that we shouldn't fight a strong war on terror, but Rumsfeld's not doing a very good job of it,'' Schumer told Fox.

Another senior Democrat, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, told ABC's ''This Week'' he would probably support a no-confidence resolution against Rumsfeld.

The administration has begun a new push to bolster sagging public support for the war ahead of the elections, with Bush framing the debate as a choice between staying the course or giving in to terrorists. Republicans argue that Democrats are weak on security issues and would ''cut and run'' in Iraq.

''I think Secretary Rumsfeld has done an excellent job.

He'll be remembered as one of the great secretaries of defense,'' Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told CBS's ''Face the Nation''.

McConnell said Democrats wanted to ''wave the white flag'' on the Iraq war. He said the Republican-run Senate would dwell on national security issues all through September.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said on ''Face the Nation'' that ''of course'' Rumsfeld should resign, adding that it was not smart to attack the majority of Americans who thought the war in Iraq was a mistake.

''Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President (Dick) Cheney have gone on television saying people who disagree with the president are essentially like Nazi appeasers. When you start attacking voters out of your frustration, that is not a good thing for winning elections,'' Dean said REUTERS AB KP2320

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