GOP Torpedoes Iraq Troop Pullout Plan
Thursday, July 19, 2007; 1:12 AM
WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans torpedoed legislation Wednesday to force the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, bowing to President Bush's adamant refusal to consider any change in war strategy before September.
The 52-47 vote fell far short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation and marked the final act in an all-night session that Democrats engineered to dramatize their opposition to the war.
"Time and the American people are ... on our side," said a defiant Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has made ending the war the Democrats' top goal since they took control of the Senate in January. "We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq," he said moments after the vote.
Equally unyielding on the other side, Arizona Sen. John McCain said, "As long as there is a prospect for not losing this war, then we must not choose to lose it."
"I do not know how I could choose any other course," said McCain, a Republican presidential contender.
The Senate's action left no doubt that Bush's decision last winter to deploy additional troops to Iraq will have at least two more months to produce results. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq and architect of the president's latest strategy, is to deliver a report to Congress on Sept. 15.
Wednesday's vote unfolded as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the Capitol for private meetings with lawmakers and the nation's top military officer cautioned that the United States faces decades of fighting in the larger global war on terror.
"We can vote to fight it in one place or another," said Gen. Peter Pace, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is nearing an end.
"But the bottom line is that as long as our enemy is sworn to destroy our way of life, we are going to be in a war," said Pace, addressing troops in Afghanistan.
Inside the Capitol, senators voted from their seats as they settled the fate of the withdrawal measure, a procedure usually reserved only for the most solemn of occasions.
But the outcome was no different from numerous other contested votes this year on the war, yet another demonstration that Democrats lack the votes to force a change in course without the acquiescence of Senate Republicans _ if not the White House.
Expressions of Republican discontent on Iraq have grown in recent weeks, a trend reinforced by an administration report that showed little progress by Iraqis toward political goals. Even so, only four of the Senate's 49 Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, chose to side with Democrats on their demand for a final vote.