- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

Senate Democrats yesterday failed in their bid to move forward with a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

The 56-34 roll-call vote was four short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture, or to limit debate before a vote. Seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote with Democrats to advance the resolution.

“A majority of the United States Senate is against the escalation in Iraq,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “As for the Republicans who chose once again to block further debate and protect President Bush, the American people now know they support the escalation” in the number of troops.

It was Mr. Reid’s second attempt in less than two weeks to push for a vote on the resolution.

Republicans said they had rebuffed an “unfair” attempt by Mr. Reid to prevent a vote on an alternative resolution that would protect funding for the troops in Iraq.

“There is no place for chicanery at a time of war,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “Even some of the president’s most strident opponents know that. They know that the only vote that truly matters is a vote on whether to fund the troops.”

The White House yesterday agreed that funding the troops should be a top priority.

“Both houses of Congress within a matter of weeks will conduct binding votes on a matter of cardinal importance for America’s future security and global credibility: whether to fund the president’s supplemental-funding request for our military,” a statement from the White House said. “The president urges both houses to approve his request.”

Mr. Reid said the Senate is “moving on” from trying to pass the nonbinding resolution, which cleared the House on Friday by a vote of 246-182.

He said Democrats will push for further debate on the war by attaching amendments to legislation adopting recommendations from the September 11 commission. That issue will be taken up when the Senate returns Feb. 27 from a weeklong recess.

But Senate Democrats offered no details on how they would try to block Mr. Bush’s troop-surge plan.

House Democratic leaders have outlined a strategy to limit military options by restricting the use of money in a military-appropriations bill they will take up next month.

Republicans call that a “slow-bleed” approach that will cut off funds for the war, and Mr. Reid gave no indication of whether he will pursue the same strategy in the Senate.

Nine Republicans and one Democrat did not vote yesterday. One of those who didn’t vote was Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, a 2008 presidential hopeful.

Mr. McCain, while campaigning in Iowa, told his audience that nonbinding measures are “insulting to the public and the soldiers,” according to the Associated Press.

Democrats gained crossover votes yesterday from seven Republicans, up from just two in an identical vote nearly two weeks ago.

The seven Republicans who voted yesterday to advance the measure were Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John W. Warner of Virginia. Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, also voted with the Democrats.

But most Republicans insisted yesterday they will stand their ground.

“Harry Reid is not going to be able to stuff us on this one,” Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said after the vote. “Every leader thinks he can be a dictator,” said Mr. Lott, who was Senate majority leader from 1996 to 2001. “He cannot.”

Republicans were determined not to be portrayed as “blocking debate,” as they had been after the previous vote.

“Republicans in the Senate have not prevented any debate over the war in Iraq,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, at the beginning of the nearly two-hour debate preceding yesterday’s vote. “What we have prevented is the majority leader dictating to the minority exactly which resolutions we will vote on.”

Still, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, vowed that Democrats would “be relentless” in their campaign to end the war in Iraq.

“There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment, all forcing this body to do what is has not done for three years: discuss and debate Iraq,” Mr. Schumer said. “Just like in the days of Vietnam, the pressure will mount … and the vast majority of our troops will have to be taken out of harm’s way.”

A gallery full of spectators watched yesterday’s debate preceding the vote, and more than 100 people stood in line outside the Capitol, waiting to enter.

While Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, was speaking, a lone protester, wearing an American flag bandanna on her head, rose and shouted, according to some in the chamber: “Three-thousand American lives lost. The American people voted bring the troops home.”

As Capitol Police officers took the woman out, she shouted, “I yield back the balance of my time,” mocking the phrase senators use after finishing their speeches.

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