WASHINGTON - A conservative Republican senator said Sunday most lawmakers believe President Bush will focus on reducing U.S. troops in Iraq once a top general reports in September on the war's progress.
Sen. Jeff Sessions , R-Ala., said any reduction will have to await a much anticipated report by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who will tell the president and Congress whether the current troop increase is working.
"By September, when General Petraeus is to make a report, I think most of the people in Congress believe, unless something extraordinary occurs, that we should be on a move to draw those surge numbers down," Sessions said.
Sessions' comment followed the recent statement by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell , who said Friday, "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it."
The president on Friday signed a bill Friday to pay for military operations in Iraq. That followed a bitter struggle with Democrats in Congress who sought unsuccessfully to tie the money to U.S. troop withdrawals.
Pentagon planners are searching for ways to shift the Iraq mission from combat to support with fewer U.S. troops.
Democrats, meanwhile, are increasing their pressure on Bush to end U.S. involvement in the unpopular war.
"Why wait until September?" asked Sen. Carl Levin , D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.
"We've got men and women dying in Iraq right now. Why not make that change in course right now?"
Sessions indicated the differences between supporters and opponents of the administration's policy deal with timing.
"I don't believe we need a soldier in Iraq a single day longer than is necessary to serve our national interests," Sessions said.
"We've had a tough year. There's no doubt about it," he said.
"But this government in Iraq has got to step up. And we've got to be able to draw our troop levels down to be in a more supportive role, an embedding role, a training role. And they've got to defend their own country."
Sessions and Levin appeared on "Face the Nation" on CBS.