- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a resolution that would have condemned President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

On a 49-47 vote that largely followed partisan lines, Democrats fell 11 “ayes” short of the 60 needed to bring about a vote on the resolution, which is nonbinding but is widely viewed as a declaration of no confidence in the continued mission of the Iraq war and Mr. Bush’s handling of it.

Among those who voted against last night’s motion was Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, who wrote the resolution but joined other Republicans in opposition to holding a vote because the new Democratic majority is not allowing votes on other war resolutions.

Only two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota — backed voting on the resolution, and there was opposition from only two members of the Democratic caucus — independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and, in a parliamentary maneuver that gives him the right to bring the resolution back up for debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Mr. Lieberman voted “no” because, he said, the resolution is meaningless.

“This resolution is not about Congress taking responsibility,” said Mr. Lieberman, who was among the broad, bipartisan majority in Congress who in 2002 voted to go to war. “It is the opposite. It is a resolution of irresolution.”

Before and after the vote, Democrats accused Republicans of trying to dodge a debate on the increasingly unpopular war.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” declared Mr. Reid, a 2002 war supporter. “We are going to debate Iraq.”

He promised that the resolution would resurface again during debates and votes on other matters.

Last night’s “cloture motion,” which Democrats supported, was a parliamentary procedure to end debate so that a final vote can be taken. Republicans accused Mr. Reid of restricting debate on the Iraq war.

“Senate Republicans are ready to proceed with a full and open debate on the president’s strategy in Iraq,” Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said after the vote. “But we want a full debate on all the various resolutions, not just one that was handpicked by the Democratic leadership.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans will not allow a vote on the Warner resolution unless it is accompanied by at least two others.

Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has a resolution that promises not to cut funding for the war. Sen. John McCain also has a resolution in support of Mr. Bush’s “surge” plan, but also setting benchmarks for Iraqi self-governance.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, called Mr. Reid’s squelching of resolutions “an effort to short-circuit debate.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said a vote on cutting funds is not necessary.

“We don’t want to withhold funds from the troops in the field,” he said, referring to nonbinding resolution. “We want to change this policy.”

But even as the rhetoric over the resolution escalated yesterday, there was agreement from all sides that the nonbinding resolution bore no legal consequences. While it condemns Mr. Bush’s plan to increase troop levels, it doesn’t withhold any money for doing so.

“The resolution before us, its sponsors concede, will not stop the new strategy from going forward,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Instead, its sponsors say it will send a message of rebuke from the Senate to the president, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. But there is a world beyond Pennsylvania Avenue that is watching and listening.”

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said the resolution was all “sound and fury …”

“Signifying nothing,” interrupted Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, who was among the 23 senators who voted against war in 2002.

But, Mr. Lieberman warned yesterday, the nonbinding resolution could have far-reaching implications abroad.

“For the Senate to take up a symbolic vote of no confidence on the eve of a decisive battle is unprecedented, but it is not inconsequential,” he said. “It is an act which I fear will discourage our troops, hearten our enemies and showcase our disunity.”

Mr. Lieberman chided the Democrats with whom he still caucuses for pushing a toothless resolution.

“If you believe that this new strategy is flawed or that our cause is hopeless in Iraq, then you should vote to stop it,” he said. “Vote to cut off funds. Vote for a binding timeline for American withdrawal. If that is where your convictions lie, then have the courage of your convictions to accept the consequences of your convictions. That would be a resolution.”

Four senators did not vote — Republicans Mr. McCain and Mel Martinez of Florida and Democrats Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

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