Senate rejects Iraq pullout

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3:07 p.m.

The Republican-controlled Senate today soundly rejected two Democratic plans to redeploy troops from Iraq, turning back Democrats’ argument that it is time for a policy change.

Most Democrats opposed a proposal by Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, requiring redeployment of combat troops from Iraq by July 2007. It garnered 13 Democratic votes and no Republican votes, failing 86-13.

“Redeploying United States troops is necessary for success in Iraq, and it is necessary to be able to fight a more effective war on terror,” Mr. Kerry said. “We helped make the policy that put them there, we ought to help make the policy that helps to get them out of there.”

He said his proposal would force Iraqis to truly take over their own security instead of relying on U.S. forces.

But Democrats were split on the issue, and most opted instead for a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution, by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, that would call for a phased redeployment of troops from Iraq, starting Dec. 31, without specifying an end date.

Both proposals were offered as amendments to the defense authorization bill.

Mr. Levin’s resolution was defeated mostly along party-lines, 39-60, with six Democrats opposing it and one Republican — Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — supporting it.

“That we are to stand by the president, right or not, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it’s morally treasonable to the American people,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, before he voted for Mr. Levin’s amendment. “I believe it is long past time to change course in Iraq.”

Both Mr. Reid and Mr. Kerry voted to authorize use of force against Iraq in October 2002, but Mr Reid said today. “much has happened in Iraq since that fateful day, at a great price.”

Republicans blasted both amendments as a dangerous and premature abandonment of a fragile country, and a blow to U.S. troops.

“A failed state in Iraq would pose a clear present and eduring threat to the security of our coutnry,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “We’ve just one choice in Iraq and that is to see our mission there through to victory.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said it would be “foolish to squander that investment just as we are seeing success. It would dishonor them … to cut and run.”

Democrats said an open-ended policy in Iraq will create a dangerous co-dependecy on U.S. troops.

“Iraq is ultimately the responsibility of the Iraqis. We cannot forever do the job for them,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat who supported Mr. Levin’s proposal, but said Mr. Kerry’s strict timeline wasn’t a wise policy.

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