Senate rejects Dems’ plan to withdraw troops in 2008

first_imgWASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic resolution to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2008, but a similar measure advanced in the House, and Democratic leaders vowed to keep challenging President George W. Bush to change course in Iraq. The vote in the Senate was 50 against and 48 in favor, 12 short of what was needed to pass, with just a few defections in each party. It came just hours after the House Appropriations Committee, in another vote largely on party lines, approved an emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that also includes a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The House will vote on that legislation Thursday, setting the stage for another confrontation. Democratic strategy The action in both houses threw into sharp relief the Democratic strategy of ratcheting up the pressure, vote by vote, to try to force the White House to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. But it also highlighted Republican unity in opposition; in the Senate, only one Republican, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, voted with the Democrats. Republican leaders said they counted the day as a victory. “It is clear now that the majority of the Senate opposes a deadline for the withdrawal of troops,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, countered: “The Republicans are rubber-stamping the president’s failed policy. That’s the message here.” Bush, speaking at a Republican fundraising dinner, applauded the senators who voted against a timetable. “Many of those members know what I know: that if American forces were to step back from Baghdad now, before the capital city is more secure, the scale and scope of attacks would increase and intensify,” he said. Prospects slim The Democratic resolution in the Senate would have redefined the U.S. mission in Iraq and set a goal of withdrawing U.S. combat troops by March31,2008, except for a “limited number” focused on counterterrorism, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and protecting U.S. and allied personnel. The House measure set a withdrawal deadline of Sept.1,2008. The prospects for either the House or Senate measure winning final passage were always considered slim, given that the Senate legislation needed a supermajority of 60 to advance. Even so, the White House issued forceful veto threats, sending a clear signal to Republicans where the president stood. The White House also worked behind the scenes to keep Republicans on board. Political statement Both parties consider these measures an important political statement, a measure of how far the debate about Iraq has moved recently, and a sign of Americans’ discontent with the war. But Sen. Norm Coleman, a moderate Republican from Minnesota who voted against the Democratic measure, argued that the final vote could still be misleading. “There is frustration and deep concern about the war,” said Coleman, who is facing a tough re-election fight next year. As they left the Senate floor, several other moderate Republicans who are facing difficult re-election campaigns next year were quick to register their opposition to the president’s overall Iraq strategy. But they said they were leery of legislating a troop pullout to begin within four months. “That is such a short time frame for withdrawal,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who opposed the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. In the end, the Senate resolution did not attract the contingent of seven Republican moderates who joined Democrats in opposing Bush’s troop buildup plan last month. The only Republican defection was that of Smith, who said in a statement, “Setting specific dates for withdrawal is unwise, but what is worse is remaining mired in the quicksand of the Sunni-Shia civil war.” Crossed party lines Two Democratic senators, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, crossed party lines to oppose the withdrawal plan. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent and staunch supporter of Bush’s Iraq policy, voted as expected with the Republicans. Democrats asserted that the only alternative to their plan was endorsing, once again, the status quo in Iraq. In a debate steeped in anger and dismay, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia declared, “We were wrong to invade, we were wrong to think victory would be quick or easy, and we are wrong to stay on in occupation that earns us only hatred – with no end, no end, no end in sight.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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