- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Democratic-led Senate today failed to set a spring deadline for withdrawing most U.S. troops from Iraq as Republicans remained united behind President Bush’s war strategy.

The amendment died 52-47 — falling eight votes shy of the 60 needed to advance it to a simple-majority vote — after an all-night debate.

Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republicans for filibustering the measure and immediately pulled from consideration the underlying bill that calls for increasing both the pay for troops and the size of the Army and Marines.

“We stayed up all night, but it was worth it because we picked up another Republican vote,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “We won’t stop until we get 60.”

The Democrats” months-long push to attract support to end the war garnered one new Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Three other Republicans voted for the measure, Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, both critics of the war, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who did so to allow a majority vote.

Forty-six Republicans voted against it. Mr. Reid became the lone Democrat to vote against it when he switched his vote in a procedure that protects his right to reintroduce the measure later.

“Last night”s theatrics accomplished nothing,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We could have had the vote on the [amendment] without any of this fanfare. And that”s really all it amounted to: sound and fury.”

Although more Republicans, including prominent senators such as John Warner of Virginia, are speaking out against President Bush”s policy, few are willing to vote against him yet. But Democrats vowed to keep applying pressure.

“[W]e believe that with time, when we come back to this bill as soon as we possibly can, that we’re going to pick up even more support when the American people see who has voted to change course and who did not,” said Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat who authored the measure.

Republicans said the troop withdrawal legislation encroaches on the president”s power to wage the war and that the generals, not Congress, should be making decisions about troop levels.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who led the Republicans during the debate, said repeatedly that the 30,000 surge in troops carrying out Mr. Bush”s new strategy has just been completed and must be given at least until September, and possibly beyond.

The measure by Mr. Levin and Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, requires most combat troops to leave Iraq by April 30. It leaves an undetermined number of troops to protect U.S. and coalition interests, train Iraqi security forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.

Shortly after the morning’s vote, Mr. Reid pulled the defense authorization bill from the floor in an attempt to secure more Republican support for the Levin-Reed amendment. He declined to say when he would re-introduce the bill, a move that angered Republican leaders.

“This is or could be a historic moment because it could be for the first time in 45 years that the Congress of the United States, not just the Senate, but the Congress of the United States, has not passed a defense authorization bill and had that bill signed by the president,” Mr. McCain said. “It’s a commentary on where the priorities are of those who brought down this bill. It clearly cannot be the welfare and benefit and arming and training and equipment both of our active duty military and the medical care for our veterans.”

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