- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Senate Democratic leaders ordered cots rolled out yesterday in the Capitol and convened a rare all-night session in an attempt to portray Republicans as obstructing efforts to change the Bush administration’s Iraq war policy.

Republicans said the session was purely theatrical and was delaying passage of the $649 billion defense authorization bill.

Some Democrats left the session temporarily to attend a candlelight antiwar rally across from the Capitol

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the unusual session was necessary because Republicans refused to agree to a simple majority to pass the bill and were intent on filibustering an amendment that called for pulling most troops out of Iraq by April 30.


“If Republicans insist on blocking change of course in Iraq, we have no alternative but to keep them in session to have them explain their obstruction,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Republicans will need to choose whether they want to protect the president or protect our troops.”

Republican leaders called the Democrats’ argument insincere. They said the 60-vote threshold is standard on major issues and repeatedly offered to vote on the measure yesterday. Congress has approved military funding through September, Republicans said, and should wait until Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, presents a progress report in September before it reconsiders the war policy.

“There is progress being made, and the evidence is all over Iraq,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “Will it be difficult, will it be a long, hard struggle? Yes. But to deny and say that the war is lost, I think, is really not being fair to the American people.”

The measure is expected to fall in a procedural filibuster when the Senate votes this morning on ending debate. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill as well as a similar measure passed last week in the House. Supporters do not have enough votes to override a veto.

The all-night session, the first since 2003 when the Republican majority staged one during a protracted fight over judicial nominees, included often testy debate and a series of procedural votes designed to keep the Senate working. Democrats’ antiwar efforts yesterday also included sending veterans to the offices of Republican senators.

A Newsweek poll conducted last week showed that Americans are evenly split on whether the White House should wait until after Gen. Petraeus presents his September progress report to determine how to proceed. The poll showed that 68 percent disapprove of Mr. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war.

The amendment by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, is part of the defense authorization bill that calls for funding military operations through fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1. It requires most combat troops to leave Iraq by April 30, although a limited number of troops would remain for an undetermined amount of time to protect U.S. and coalition interests, train Iraqi security forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.