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Senate Defeats Iraq Withdrawal Measure

by Noam Levey

WASHINGTON -- The Senate today handily defeated a measure to effectively end most U.S. combat operations in Iraq by next April, but the 29 senators who voted for the amendment represented the highest number yet that have united behind a proposal to force President Bush to bring home American troops.

The plan by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not garner nearly enough votes to pass. Sixty-seven senators -- 47 Republicans, and 20 Democrats -- opposed the proposal.

Their amendment won the votes of 28 Democrats and one independent. But support for the Feingold-Reid measure -- which followed a similar House vote last week -- provided another indication of how public pressure to end the war has pushed congressional Democrats to embrace once politically taboo plans to challenge Bush's management of the war.

"It is clear that change is in the air ," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the vote. "Our resolutions have not passed, but they will pass."

Among the measure's supporters were all four Democratic Senate leaders, as well as the four Democratic senators running for president: Delaware's Joseph Biden, New York's Hillary Rodham Clinton, Connecticut's Christopher Dodd and Illinois' Barack Obama.

California's two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also backed the plan.

The Feingold-Reid plan introduced last month would cut off funding at the end of March for all but a limited range of military operations, which include protecting U.S. personnel, training Iraqi forces and conducting limited counter-terrorism operations.

"Congress cannot wait for the president to change course," said Feingold, one of the war's harshest critics.

"As long as the president's Iraq policy goes unchecked, our courageous troops will continue to put their lives on the line unnecessarily, our constituents will continue to pour billions of dollars into this war, our military readiness will continue to erode and our ability to confront and defeat Al Qaeda will be jeopardized," Feingold said on the Senate floor.

Last week, 171 House lawmakers, including two Republicans, voted for a bill that would have required the president to begin withdrawing troops in three months and complete the withdrawal in nine months.

That measure also failed, but the number of supporters surprised even many war opponents who have been pushing congressional Democrats to bring the war to an end since the party took control of the House and Senate in January.

Today's Senate vote, during debate of a water projects bill, was a symbolic exercise orchestrated by Senate leaders who agreed to consider four Iraq-related measures before House and Senate negotiators begin working on an emergency war spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bush vetoed an earlier version of the spending bill because it contained a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces, including a non-binding goal of completing the withdrawal by next April.

Congressional Democrats hope to send the president a new version of the spending bill by the end of next week.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

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