View Full Version : Bush's Republicans Block Vote On U.S. Troops Withdrawal

07-19-2007, 08:55 AM
Bush's Republicans block vote on U.S. troop withdrawal


By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro
Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:45 PM IST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's Republicans blocked a Democratic plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of April 2008 to cap a rare round-the-clock U.S. Senate debate on Wednesday.

On a vote of 52-47, backers fell short of the needed 60 to clear a Republican procedural hurdle and move toward passage of the measure opposed by the White House.

Critics called the marathon session, which had featured cots, pillows and toothbrushes, a theatrical stunt by Democrats frustrated by their inability to keep a 2006 campaign vow to end the increasingly unpopular war.

But Democrats described the debate as a bona fide wake up call to pressure wavering Republicans, many of whom are up for re-election next year, to break ranks with Bush and demand a change in course for the war.

Democrats had hoped the showdown vote would be a possible defining moment in the ongoing clash with Bush over the Iraq war. Coinciding with a candlelight vigil by war protesters nearby, the long night's debate drew a majority of senators but appeared to change few minds.

The outcome, though expected, had an air of solemnity as weary senators voted while seated quietly behind their desks.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada urged support for the measure, which would have begun troop withdrawals within 120 days. "Bring them (U.S. combat troops) home. Let them come home," Reid declared.

"It couldn't be clearer that if you give this president a choice, he will stay hunkered down in Iraq until the end of his failed presidency," Reid said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky countered that the measure was a poor alternative to current strategy.

"Last night's theatrics accomplished nothing," McConnell said.

"After all the gags and gimmicks, the cold pizza and the empty cots" it was still not clear what the pullout proposal would mean for U.S. strategy, McConnell said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan, a chief sponsor of the measure, said setting dates for withdrawal was "the only way that we can force the Iraqi leaders to act" to bolster their own armies and resolve internal differences.

"Our amendment deserves to be voted on," Levin said.

In addition to withdrawing all combat troops by April 30, 2008, his measure would have kept an unspecified number of noncombat U.S. troops in Iraq to help train Iraqi soldiers, conduct counterterrorism missions and protect U.S. diplomats and facilities.

In fiery exchanges on the Senate floor, Democrats noted that more than 3,600 U.S. soldiers have died in the war, now in its fifth year, and that a change in strategy was needed amid a mounting civil war. Republicans warned a troop pullout would embolden terrorists and increase the risk of attack on the United States.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose presidential bid has been damaged by his staunch support for the war, said the debate in the end amounted to little.

"No battle will have been won or lost, no enemy will have been captured or killed, no ground will have been taken or surrendered, no soldier will have survived or been wounded, died or come home because we spent an entire night delivering our poll-tested message points, spinning our sound bites, arguing with each other and substituting our amateur theatrics for statesmanship," McCain said.

The White House has been urging lawmakers to hold off considering withdrawals until mid-September when the Pentagon will deliver a status report on Bush's seven-month-old initiative to secure Baghdad by injecting about 30,000 more soldiers.

Four Republicans broke with Bush and voted to move toward passage of the measure -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who normally votes with Democrats but backs the war, joined Republicans.