- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Senate defeated a Democrat-led effort yesterday to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, but voted for a Republican proposal that calls for changes in the Bush administration’s Iraq policy and requires the White House to draw up a schedule for transition to Iraqi sovereignty.

“Americans do not cut and run, Americans do not abandon their commitments, and Americans do not abandon their friends,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who said his party succeeded in their main goal of beating Democrats’ troop-withdrawal proposal.

“We’re proud to take the lead on this, and we’re happy so many Republicans followed,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

But some Democrats are going beyond calling for a plan for withdrawal, and many of those who once supported the war are now questioning the entire operation.

“Iraq now risks becoming what it was not before the war — a haven for international terrorists,” said Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

The fight came as part of the debate on the defense bill, which passed 98-0 later in the day. The bill, which must be reconciled with the House version, gives congressional authorization for detaining enemy combatants, but sets standards for their treatment and lays out their rights to appeal to U.S. courts.

The Democrats’ amendment on troop withdrawal failed 58-40, with five Democrats joining all but one Republican in defeating it.

Democratic leaders, though, said they succeeded because the Republicans’ counterproposal, which passed 79-19, says the White House “needs to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq” and still demands a schedule for meeting goals along the way.

“Democrats and Republicans acknowledged that staying the course is not the way to go,” Mr. Reid said. “This is a vote of no confidence on the Bush administration policy in Iraq.”

Thirteen Republicans voted against the Republican leaders’ amendment, including many of the war on terror’s staunchest defenders. They said approving either amendment was a bad signal.

“Anything that suggests we’re going to leave Iraq before the job is done, I think, is a bad statement,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.

He said that by adopting the amendment, senators were bowing to nervousness over public-opinion polls rather than setting good policy.

“What we ought to be concerned with is not so much the political moment, but the audience in Iraq.”

“We really don’t need to make any commitment but to win this war on terrorism — that’s our No. 1 commitment,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, who ended up voting against the Republican amendment. “My resolution would be ‘We’re going to support our troops until victory is achieved.’”

And Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a member of the Senate’s leadership, said passing either amendment would have sent a signal to the world.

“Setting schedules and timetables can only strengthen the determination of terrorists to outlast us,” he said.

During the rest of the debate yesterday, the Senate passed a bipartisan amendment that says when a detainee is designated an enemy combatant, he is allowed to appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and then to the Supreme Court.

But the amendment cuts out the other court petitions that detainees have filed on issues such as Internet access, accusations of medical malpractice and demands for a different version of the Koran.

The detainee amendment, sponsored by Mr. Graham and Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, passed 84-14.

The defense bill also includes an amendment by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that sets standards for how detainees should be treated. That amendment has drawn a veto threat from the administration.

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