Tuesday, February 06, 2007
GOP blocks Senate debate on Iraq resolution
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Republicans used a procedural maneuver Monday to keep Democratic leaders from moving forward with a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.
A motion to proceed with the debate and vote on a bipartisan compromise measure failed on a largely party-line vote of 49-47.
Under Senate rules, it needed 60 votes to pass. (Watch battle over what the resolution should say )
Sens. John Warner, R-Virginia, and Carl Levin, D-Michigan, are co-sponsors of the measure opposing Bush's plan to send 21,500 more American troops.
Republicans, including Warner, showed solidarity with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. McConnell has insisted on being allowed to bring two alternative resolutions to the floor. He also wants to require 60 votes for any of the resolutions to pass.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, accused Republicans of trying to "stamp out debate" and give Bush a "green light" for his new Iraq plan.
Reid said the strategy won't ultimately work because Democrats would "go back to Iraq again and again" until a full debate takes place.
"You can run, but you can't hide," Reid said. "We are going to debate Iraq."
After the vote, Reid said he was not sure when Democrats might try to bring up the Warner-Levin resolution again.
Complicating matters is that senators on Wednesday will start work on a supplemental appropriations bill that must be passed by February 15 to avoid a government shutdown.
Reid warned his GOP colleagues that senators might try to attach language opposing Bush's Iraq plan to other legislation, including the appropriations bill.
McConnell dismissed Reid's suggestion that Republicans were trying to avoid a debate on Iraq, insisting GOP senators were objecting to the process as a matter of "fairness."
"The Republican side of the aisle is ready for this debate. We're anxious to have it," McConnell said. "We're not trying to stop this debate. We're trying to structure it in a way that is fair to all the competing voices."
McConnell also said he was still prepared to sit down with Reid to negotiate a solution to the impasse.
The Warner-Levin resolution states that the Senate "disagrees" with Bush's plan to increase U.S. forces by more than 21,000 in Baghdad and Anbar province as part of a security plan designed to quell sectarian violence. However, it also states that Congress should not try to stop the deployment by cutting off money, as some Iraq war critics have suggested.
McConnell wants to bring to the floor a competing resolution from Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, that would support Bush's plan -- but would make the Iraqi government meet specific benchmarks.
McConnell also is pushing for consideration of language from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, which would put the Senate on record opposing any attempts to cut or eliminate funding for troops in the field.
Reid said he agreed to let all three resolutions come up for a vote, on the condition that only a simple majority would be needed for passage. In the alternative, he said he also offered to let the Warner-Levin and McCain-Lieberman resolutions come up with 60 votes required for passage, as McConnell requested.
The sticking point, according to both Reid and McConnell, was Reid's refusal to allow the Gregg measure to come to the floor under conditions that would require 60 votes for any of the resolutions to pass.
Under that scenario, it is possible that the Gregg language -- which McConnell predicted would draw the votes of a number of Democratic senators -- would be the only thing that passes, which likely would be seen as a victory for the White House.
Reid said the Republicans' insistence on having a vote on the Gregg resolution was "terribly misleading," given that its language already has been incorporated into the Warner-Levin measure. He accused GOP leaders of using the dispute as an excuse not to proceed with a debate that the White House does not want to have.
All of the resolutions would be nonbinding, and Bush administration officials have made it clear they plan to proceed with the troop increase no matter what the Senate does. But opponents of Bush's plan are hoping a strong bipartisan vote of disapproval will build pressure on the president to change course.
McConnell predicted last week that all 49 Republicans would oppose moving forward on the Levin-Warner resolution in Monday's vote. However, two Republicans who have publicly backed the measure, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, broke ranks and voted for the Democratic motion.
Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats, voted with the rest of the Republicans not to proceed.
He backs Bush's troop increase plan.