Senate Scuttles Legislation Ordering Troop Withdrawals From Iraq


Wednesday, July 18th 2007, 7:07 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled a Democratic proposal ordering troop withdrawals from Iraq in a showdown that capped an all-night debate on the war.

The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate under Senate rules. It was a sound defeat for Democrats who say the U.S. military campaign, in its fifth year and requiring 158,000 troops, cannot tame the sectarian violence in Iraq.

``We have to get us out of a middle of a civil war'' said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. A political solution must be found ``so when we leave Iraq, we don't just send our children home, we don't have to send our grandchildren back.''

As members cast their votes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hurried between private meetings with lawmakers in their Capitol Hill offices to make the administration's case for the war.

The Democratic proposal, by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., would have required President Bush to start bringing home troops within 120 days and complete the pullout by April 30, 2008. Under the bill, an unspecified number of troops could remain behind to conduct a narrow set of missions: counterterrorism, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi security forces.

Republicans were mostly unified in their opposition to sidetrack the legislation, with four exceptions. Three Republicans _ Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska _ announced previously they support setting a deadline on the war.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is up for re-election next year, also voted to advance the bill. Spokesman Kevin Kelley said Collins believes the measure should be subject to a simple majority vote and not the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. Kelley said the senator still opposes the legislation.

Other GOP members, while uneasy about the war, said they could not support legislation that would force Bush to adhere to a firm pullout date.

``The amendment tells our enemies when they can take over in Iraq,'' said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who is up for re-election next year.

The bill ``is the wrong approach at the wrong time,'' he added.

Among lawmakers scheduled to meet with Rice were Biden, Smith, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

The vote came after a rare, round-the-clock session Democrats used to highlight Republican support for Bush's Iraq strategy. Republicans said the all-nighter was a useless political stunt.

``All we have achieved are remarkably similar newspaper accounts of our inflated sense of the drama of this display and our own temporary physical fatigue,'' said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, presidential candidate and the top Republican on the Armed Services Committe.

Most senators got a chance for a few hours of shuteye even while a handful of their colleagues took turns droning on through the night with floor speeches.

With a half-dozen spectators watching from the gallery, Republicans Collins and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota were among those speaking during the long night, joined by Democrats Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jim Webb of Virginia. McCain finished his speech around 4:10 a.m. He was followed by White House hopeful Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

While the issue was momentous _ a war more than four years in duration, costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives _ the proceedings were thick with politics.

MoveOn.org, the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with Democratic leaders attending.

On Tuesday, Republicans Smith and Snowe appeared with Democratic supporters of the legislation at a news conference.

``We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality,'' said Snowe, who said the Iraqi government was guilty of ``serial intransigence'' when it came to trying to solve the country's political problems.

Smith, who is seeking re-election next year in Oregon, said Iraqis appeared focused on ``revenge, not reconciliation,'' and that the administration needed to change its approach. ``The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al-Qaida,'' he said, rather than referee a civil war.


With a half-dozen spectators watching from the gallery, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John Thune of South Dakota were among those speaking during the long night, joined by Democrats Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jim Webb of Virginia. Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona finished his speech around 4:10 a.m. He was followed by White House hopeful Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in the last election, had the floor as the sun started rising over Capitol Hill.

The Senate was to vote later in the morning on legislation by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., that would require President Bush to begin pulling troops out of Iraq in 120 days. After April 30, an unspecified number of troops would be allowed to remain in Iraq to fight terrorists, protect U.S. assets and train Iraqi security forces.

The legislation was expected to attract the support of a narrow majority of senators _ around 52 votes _ but fall short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and end a filibuster.

``Will the all-night session change any votes? I hope so,'' said Reid, D-Nev. ``Because it will focus attention on the obstructionism of the Republicans.''

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to spend most of Wednesday on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers on Bush's Iraq policy, a senior State Department official said.

Rice's plans included spending up to five hours in the morning and early afternoon in group and private meetings in both the Senate and House. The focus would be Iraq and other foreign policy issues, including the Middle East, the official said.

While the issue was momentous _ a war more than four years in duration, costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives _ the proceedings were thick with politics.

MoveOn.org, the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among those attending.

Republican Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine appeared with Democratic supporters of the legislation at a news conference. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., was also expected to endorse the measure.

``We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality,'' said Snowe, who said the Iraqi government was guilty of ``serial intransigence'' when it came to trying to solve the country's political problems.

Smith, who is seeking re-election next year, said Iraqis appeared focused on ``revenge, not reconciliation,'' and that the administration needed to change its approach. ``The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al-Qaida,'' he said, rather than referee a civil war.