GOP blocks Iraq resolution in Senate
Democrats can't muster enough votes to advance the measure, which opposes Bush's deployment of more troops.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 18, 2007
WASHINGTON - The Senate gridlocked on the Iraq war in a sharply worded showdown Saturday as Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate President Bush's deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops.
The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance a nonbinding measure identical to one the House passed Friday.
Democrats claimed victory anyway. "A majority of the United States Senate is against the escalation in Iraq," said Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "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 troops.
Republicans blasted the Democratic leadership for refusing to allow a vote on an alternative that ruled out any reduction in money for troops in the field.
"There is no place for chicanery at a time of war," said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "Even some of the president's most strident opponents know that. They know that the only vote that truly matters in a vote on whether to fund the troops."
The White House echoed his remarks, issuing a written statement that touched on the votes in the House and Senate, and looked to the coming debate over Bush's request for an additional $93-billion for the military.
"This week's voting gave the world a glimpse of democracy's vigor. The next votes should provide unmistakable assurance of this nation's resolve in achieving success, supporting the cause of democracy and stopping terrorist forces in their ultimate aim of bringing their violence to our shores," said the statement from press secretary Tony Snow.
The vote marked the second time this winter that Senate Republicans have blocked action on nonbinding measures critical of the president's war policies.
This time, seven Republicans broke with their leadership - including five whose term ends with the next election - compared with only two on the previous test vote.
The day's events ended the initial phase of what looms as a yearlong confrontation between the new, Democratic-controlled Congress and the president.
Reid told reporters he would no longer attempt to win passage for nonbinding measures and would turn his attention to legislation designed to force Bush to change course. House Democratic leaders intend to do likewise.
Saturday's maneuvering occurred in an intensely political environment, both in and out of the Capitol.
Nine Republicans skipped the Senate session, calculating that because they support Bush's policies, their votes would not affect the outcome of the vote.
Among them was Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a presidential hopeful who campaigned in Iowa. He called the Senate vote meaningless, and told one audience the symbolic measures are "insulting to the public and the soldiers."
The nonbinding measure consisted of fewer than 100 words. It disapproved of Bush's decision to deploy more troops and pledged to support and protect the troops in the field.
Even before the House acted, Bush had made it clear that congressional opposition would not deter him from proceeding with the deployment of another 21,500 troops, designed primarily to quell sectarian violence in heavily populated Baghdad.
Already, troops of the Army's 82nd Airborne have arrived in Iraq. Another brigade is in Kuwait, in final training before going to Iraq. Three more brigades are ticketed for the Baghdad area, one each in March, April and May.
Senate roll call
The roll call by which the Senate refused to advance a nonbinding resolution disapproving of President Bush's troop surge in Iraq was 56-34. A "yes" vote was to advance the resolution and a "no" vote was to stop it.
Voting yes: 48 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent.
Voting no: 33 Republicans and one independent.
Florida vote: Republican Mel Martinez, no; Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, yes.