- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic resolution urging the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and changing of the current Iraq policy, following hours of politically charged debate.

“Secretary Rumsfeld and the Bush White House have mastered the politics of national security, but as we’ve seen day after day in Iraq, they’ve failed to do what it takes to make America safe,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who led the effort.

“No matter how the lily is gilded, things are not going well in the war against terrorism, and there is no doubt that we need new leadership,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

Republicans accused Democrats of playing political games and advocating a dangerous message of retreat.

“They are very united in defeatism. … They attack this president, with no ideas of their own,” Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican said of Democrats. “Stop performing for an audience, and help us fight this war,” he told them.

Democrats offered their proposal as an amendment to the annual defense spending bill, but Republicans blocked it from receiving a vote by objecting on grounds that it was unrelated to spending.

Still, Democrats insisted on nearly five hours of debate on the proposal, arguing it’s high time to hold Mr. Rumsfeld and the administration accountable. Their resolution, which didn’t carry the force of law, stated that the current “stay the course” policy in Iraq has made America less secure and stretched U.S. forces thin and burdened taxpayers, and that President Bush must change the direction, starting with a new defense secretary. The proposal did not specifically outline a new direction.

Democrats complained that Mr. Rumsfeld had shifted the focus from Afghanistan, rushed an unwise invasion of Iraq, didn’t plan adequately for the aftermath, ignored calls for more troops and dismissed criticism.

But Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, said Democrats don’t seem to understand that there are enemies who “wish to kill us.” He said their policy “is firmly grounded in Birkenstocks and clearly not grounded in the reality of the world as it is.”

Republicans said Mr. Rumsfeld has made the country safer. “By going on offense, he’s helped to ensure that we have not been attacked here at home in the five years since 9/11,” said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats lack the ability to hold a similar no-confidence vote in that chamber.

“The president has the vote that counts when it comes to Rumsfeld,” she said. “It’s clear the president’s standards are not very high when it comes to protecting the American people, strengthening our military or bringing stability to the world.”

Mrs. Pelosi and other House Democrats charged yesterday that Republicans have jeopardized America’s security in the five years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. They said if they win back the majority in the November elections, one of the party’s first actions will be implementing the recommendations made by the September 11 commission.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer, Indiana Democrat, who served as a member of that bipartisan panel, said the government failed to make 20 of the changes the commission recommended.

“As al Qaeda is poised to attack again, to simply sit back and do little or nothing, or play politics with this issue, is unacceptable and it makes us unsafe,” he said.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said Republicans have created an environment in which the “most objective analysis indicates that we are not as ready and strong today as we were in January of 2001, related to national security.”

He said the country’s airports are safer, but the ports, borders and nuclear power plants are not.

“We know that the Republican leadership will attempt to play politics with the nation’s security as we approach the anniversary of 9/11, but we want to make it clear that empty rhetoric will not make the nation safer,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.

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