Domenici has served in the Senate since 1973.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - New Mexico GOP Sen. Pete Domenici called for a change of policy in Iraq Thursday, making him the third veteran Republican to break ranks with President Bush over the issue in the last two weeks.
In a news conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said his change of heart stems from the Iraqi government's failure "to make even modest progress to help Iraq itself or to merit the sacrifices being made by our men."
“I have carefully studied the Iraq situation, and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward,” the New Mexico Republican said. “I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”
Responding to Domenici's comments Thursday afternoon, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, “We respect him. He’s an important voice. But it’s also important to note that he does not advocate an arbitrary withdrawal date. And he does support funding for our troops.”
“As we’ve said before, the surge by definition is temporary," Stanzel added. "It’s our belief it’s in place to bring relief and security so Baghdad officials can make progress on political matters. We’ll eventually turn over more control to Iraqi forces. People are talking about what happens after the surge. We’ll continue to have those conversations. The president wants to bring the troops home as soon as possible. But he will do so based on the recommendations of commanders on the ground.”
Domenici did not inform the White House or President Bush of his decision to call for a new course in Iraq, Courtney Sanders, Deputy Press Secretary for Domenici, told CNN.
Sanders said Domenici just “felt it was time to announce his decision."
Republican Sens. Dick Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio have also recently called for a change of policy in Iraq.
– CNN's Kathleen Koch, Andrea Koppel and Alexander Mooney