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7 GOP Senators Back War Debate

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/07/AR2007020702550.html?referrer=email 7 GOP Senators Back War Debate Lawmakers Had Blocked Action
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2007

      7 GOP Senators Back War Debate
      Lawmakers Had Blocked Action on Troop Resolution

      By Shailagh Murray
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Thursday, February 8, 2007; Page A01

      Senate Republicans who earlier this week helped block
      deliberations on a resolution opposing President
      Bush's new troop deployments in Iraq changed course
      yesterday and vowed to use every tactic at their
      disposal to ensure a full and open debate.

      In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate
      leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and
      five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened
      to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor
      in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most
      pressing issue of our time," the senators declared:
      "We will explore all of our options under the Senate
      procedures and practices to ensure a full and open

      The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry M.
      Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
      (R-Ky.) was not more specific about the Republican
      senators' strategy for reviving the war debate. But
      under the chamber's rules, senators have wide latitude
      in slowing the progress of legislation and in offering
      amendments, regardless of whether they have anything
      to do with the bill.

      The letter began circulating yesterday evening after
      it became apparent the Senate was deadlocked over the
      war resolution and Reid was prepared to move on to
      other matters. McConnell and many in his party have
      aggressively defended their decision to block the
      bipartisan resolution as an issue of fairness because
      Democrats would not agree to GOP procedural demands.

      But some Republicans were uneasy about appearing to
      have stymied the debate. The letter appeared so
      suddenly that, although it was addressed to Reid, the
      Democratic leader had not seen his copy before Warner
      read the text on the Senate floor.

      "Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as
      any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating
      the concepts" of the resolution, the letter said. "The
      current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the
      people of this country."

      House Democratic leaders are attempting to formulate
      their own nonbinding expression of disapproval of
      Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to
      battle, and they intend to devote three days next week
      to debating it.

      A top Pentagon leader weighed in yesterday on the war
      debate and appeared to undercut the argument advanced
      by the White House and many GOP lawmakers that a
      congressional debate challenging the Bush plan would
      hurt troop morale.

      "There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in
      Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine
      Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
      Staff, testified before the House Armed Services
      Committee. He added that potential enemies may take
      some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have
      a clue how democracy works."

      Congress is grappling with several nonbinding
      resolutions, each of which addresses Bush's deployment
      plan, even as public support for the war declines and
      conditions on the ground grow increasingly perilous.
      The debate has particularly vexed Republicans, who are
      reluctant to abandon Bush at a critical moment but who
      also regard the party's defeat in the November midterm
      elections as a signal that voters want Congress to
      challenge White House war policy more aggressively.

      The Senate was poised to debate a nonbinding
      resolution opposing the additional troop deployment
      and calling for a diplomatic initiative to settle the
      conflict in Iraq. Republicans refused to allow the
      resolution to reach the floor, relying on a standard
      procedural objection.

      Five of the seven Senate signatories to yesterday's
      letter -- including Warner, the bipartisan
      resolution's chief author -- had voted Monday to block
      the debate. By showing party solidarity, they had
      hoped to pressure Democrats into allowing the
      consideration of other nonbinding measures, namely two
      that are more supportive of the administration's
      policy. But Democratic leaders refused to relent, and
      the long-awaited war debate -- or at least the opening
      chapter -- ended almost as soon as it began.

      The Republican senators attempted in their letter to
      clear up the apparent contradiction. "Monday's
      procedural vote should not be interpreted as any
      lessening of our resolve to go forward," the senators
      insisted. But they voiced the GOP leadership's view
      that other resolutions should receive an equal

      "The Senate should be allowed to work its will on our
      resolution as well as the concepts being brought
      forward by other senators," the letter stated.

      The other Republican senators who signed the letter
      were Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Norm
      Coleman (Minn.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), and George V.
      Voinovich (Ohio).

      Democrats brushed off the Republicans' declaration as
      too little, too late. Reid spokesman Jim Manley said
      in a statement: "Senator Reid gave Senator Warner and
      the others a chance to vote for their own resolution
      on Monday, but only two of them chose to do so.
      Hopefully this letter signifies that the others have
      had a change of heart, and will be willing to vote for
      their own resolution in the future."

      After reading the text on the Senate floor, Warner
      hurried back to his office, declining to answer
      questions. He would not specify whether he and his
      allies would seek to block specific bills, including a
      huge spending package that the Senate is expected to
      take up today, to fund government activities for the
      current fiscal year. Warner did indicate whether he
      will attempt to amend the funding package with his

      In the letter, the senators said they will offer the
      resolution "where possible" on bills as they come
      before the Senate.

      House Democrats had hoped for a large bipartisan
      Senate vote on Warner's resolution to create momentum
      in the House and to provide maximum pressure on
      Republicans to go along. But with the Senate at a
      standstill, House leaders are considering a
      straightforward resolution that opposes the troop
      increase, without the multiple provisions that
      complicated Warner's text. Senior House Democrats
      predicted that their measure will attract overwhelming
      party support and possibly as many as 30 GOP votes.

      Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.
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