- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

Senate Democrats’ latest bill to set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq died yesterday in a mostly party-line vote, the third pullout bill defeated this week as the chamber stalled on the war debate.

The mandate for a nearly complete pullout from Iraq within nine months failed in a 47-47 vote, far short of the 60 votes needed.

The same bill died in a nearly identical vote in July after an all-night debate didn’t sway Republicans, who two months later still say the Democrat-led Congress is attempting to micromanage the war.

“To substitute the Congress’ judgment for Gen. [David] Petraeus’ judgment is ill advised,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, referring to the U.S. military commander in Iraq.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, yesterday vowed to keep pushing for a pullout.

“The important thing is that they know that we are not going to quit, that the Congress is going to keep on trying to pass a law,” said Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat.

He said he would begin this weekend to court Republican support for a bill setting a goal rather than a deadline to complete a pullout. That tactic was abandoned recently by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, because it risked alienating the party’s antiwar base.

The legislation, offered as an amendment to the $648.8 billion Defense Authorization bill, drew support from three Republicans: Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.

They had been joined in July by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in a 52-47 vote that fell short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster. Mrs. Collins, who voted against the bill yesterday, says she supported continued debate in July but never intended to vote for passage.

Mrs. Snowe called on Mr. Reid to seek a compromise with Republicans.

“I think it is absolutely important to make a [policy] change even if it isn’t the kind of change that we truly desire,” she said.

Republicans criticized Mr. Reid for staging repeated votes for a pullout knowing the measures would fail.

This week the Senate already rejected Democratic bills that would have limited troop-deployment schedules and that would have cut off funding for combat in Iraq.

“Instead of posturing for political gain, it’s time for the Senate’s leaders to sit down with those of us trying to find a consensus,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

Mr. Alexander supports legislation that would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which include a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.

“Surely they are not suggesting that the Iraq war is not the most important issue facing the country,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

“The fact is, Senator Reid spent last week talking to many Republicans about ways to force a change in administration policy,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the end Republican senators decided they would rather protect the president than do what is right for the country and the troops, and that is bring them home as quickly as possible.”

Three Democrats opposed the bill, including presidential hopeful Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Pryor of Arkansas also voted against the bill.

The three other senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president — Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois — voted for the amendment.

Another handful of Democratic bills to alter the war policy are to be debated next week.

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