Senate rejects motion to debate House-passed Iraq resolution

(Gold9472: Ahhh, the benefits of having a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. Not that this vote meant anything.)

Ron Brynaert
Published: Saturday February 17, 2007

The Senate rejected a motion to debate a House-passed Iraq resolution disapproving President Bush's increase of troops into Iraq. Republican allies of Bush blocked the Democratic-controlled Senate's bid to open a long-awaited debate on his unpopular Iraq strategy.

"Today, a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate voted against the President’s flawed plan to escalate the war," Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement sent to RAW STORY afterwards. "The Senate joined the House of Representatives, put itself on the record, and told the President that America needs a new direction in Iraq. As for the Republicans who chose once again to block further debate and protect President Bush, the American people now know they support the escalation."

Sixty votes were needed, and the final vote was 56 to 34, with ten members not voting. All Democrats voted "yes," but only seven Republicans voted with the majority party.

The following Republican senators voted to continue debate: Senators Olympia Snowe (ME), John Warner (VA), Arlen Specter (PA), Chuck Hagel (NE), Susan Collins (ME), Norm Coleman (MN) and Gordon Smith (OR).

In his Senate floor remarks, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) applauded the "courage" of Republicans who were willing to cross party lines to protest the war via the non-binding resolution.

"The Senate, on behalf of the American people, must make it clear to the commander in chief that he no longer has a rubber stamp in Iraq," Reid said before the vote.

The House resolution passed on Friday by 246-182, with 17 Republicans voting in support and two Democrats voting "no."

The Senate Leadership, including Reid, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer and Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, will be joined by Senators Jack Reed and Jim Webb, at a press conference later this afternoon.

Reid's statement released after the vote continued, "Today’s vote against the escalation is not the end of this Iraq debate in the Senate. This war is too important to permit Senate Republicans to brush it aside. The Bush Administration’s failures have put our troops and America in a deep hole, and it is time for this country and this Congress to climb out. The Republican Leadership can run from this debate, but they can’t hide. The Senate will keep fighting to force President Bush to change course."

It was the second time in less than two weeks that loyal Republicans managed to block debate on the unpopular war in the more powerful of the two congressional chambers.

The move came a day after the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, delivered Bush, the country's commander-in-chief, a stinging rebuke, saying it "disapproves" of his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had called for the vote to be defeated, accusing the Democrats of "chicanery."

"We will not be forced to vote for a resolution that says we support the troops but does not ask us to seal that pledge with a promise to help them carry out that mission in the only way they can -- funding their mission," the Republican senator told the floor.

But Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who has recently become an outspoken critic of the war and voted Saturday for the debate to begin, said earlier that it was not important whether the vote was passed or not.

"This is going to go on for some time. And it should be played out, so the American people have an opportunity to know exactly where their members of Congress, the House and Senate, stand on a further escalation of America's military involvement in Iraq," Hagel told PBS television late Friday.

"This issue, Iraq, is the most important, pressing issue facing this country. And I think it's going to become more and more dangerous, unless we do have an honest, open debate on this, so the American people can hear it," he said.

The non-binding resolution in the House of Representatives on Friday, which was approved by 246 votes for to 182 against, voiced disapproval with Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

It added, however, that "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq."

Polls show more than half of all Americans support a non-binding resolution repudiating the president's troop "surge" proposal, while about three in five back proposals for getting US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008.

Friday's vote represented the most serious action organized on the Iraq war since the US-led invasion in March 2003 to topple dictator Saddam Hussein. More than 3,100 US troops have since died.

Still, the White House has said it will press on with the new strategy and warned Democrats against moving toward cutting off war funding.

"The president believes that the Congress should provide the full funding and flexibility our armed forces need to succeed in their mission to protect our country," the White House said in a statement shortly after the House vote.

"Soon, Congress will have the opportunity to show its support for the troops in Iraq by funding the supplemental appropriations request the president has submitted, and which our men and women in combat are counting on," it said.