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Senate Signals Support for Iraq Timeline

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20070327/D8O4P0TO2.html Senate Signals Support for Iraq Timeline Mar 27, 5:44 PM (ET) By DAVID ESPO WASHINGTON (AP) - Defying a
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 27, 2007
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      Senate Signals Support for Iraq Timeline

      Mar 27, 5:44 PM (ET)


      WASHINGTON (AP) - Defying a veto threat, the
      Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support
      Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from
      Iraq by next March.

      Republican attempts to scuttle the non-binding
      timeline failed on a vote of 50-48, largely along
      party lines. The roll call marked the Senate's most
      forceful challenge to date of the administration's
      handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more
      than 3,200 U.S. troops.

      Three months after Democrats took power in Congress,
      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the moment was
      at hand to "send a message to President Bush that the
      time has come to find a new way forward in this
      intractable war."

      But Republicans - and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an
      independent Democrat - argued otherwise.

      John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential hopeful, said
      that "we are starting to turn things around" in the
      Iraq war" and that a timeline for withdrawal would
      embolden the terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.

      The effect of the timeline would be to "snatch defeat
      from the jaws of progress in Iraq," agreed Lieberman,
      who won a new term last fall in a three-way race after
      losing the Democratic nomination to an anti-war

      Bush had previously said he would veto any bill
      containing the timeline, and the White House freshened
      the threat a few hours before the vote on Tuesday.
      "This and other provisions would place freedom and
      democracy in Iraq at grave risk, embolden our enemies
      and undercut the administration's plan to develop the
      Iraqi economy," it said in a statement.

      Similar legislation drew only 48 votes in the Senate
      earlier this month, but Democratic leaders made a
      change that persuaded Nebraska's Democratic Sen. Ben
      Nelson to swing behind the measure.

      Additionally, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a vocal
      critic of the war, sided with the Democrats, assuring
      them of the majority they needed to turn back a
      challenge led by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

      The debate came on legislation that provides $122
      billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as
      well as domestic priorities such relief to hurricane
      victims and payments to farmers.

      Separately, supporters of an increase in the minimum
      wage readied an effort to attach the measure to the
      spending bill, along with companion tax cuts that
      Republicans have demanded. The House and Senate have
      passed different versions of the bill but have yet to
      reach a compromise.

      The House has already passed legislation requiring
      troops to be withdrawn by Sept. 1, 2008. The Senate
      vote assured that the Democratic-controlled Congress
      would send Bush legislation later this spring that
      calls for a change in war policy. A veto is a
      certainty, presuming the president follows through.

      That would put the onus back on the Democrats, who
      would have to decide how long they wanted to extend
      the test of wills in the face of what are likely to be
      increasingly urgent statements from the administration
      that the money is needed for troops in the war zone.

      "Frankly, I think we'd like to reach out to the
      president ... and say, 'Mr. President, this is not a
      unilateral government. It is a separation of powers,
      and the Congress of the United States is assuming
      review,'" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of
      Maryland told reporters as the Senate debated the war.

      Reid also referred to the president at a news
      conference. "I would hope that he would be willing to
      work with us in coming up with some language that both
      (houses of Congress) could accept. At this stage, he
      has been very non-negotiable. So we'll see what
      happens," he said.

      As drafted, the legislation called for troop
      withdrawal to begin within 120 days, with a
      non-binding goal that calls for the combat troops to
      be gone within a year.

      The measure also includes a series of suggested goals
      for the Iraqi government to meet to provide for its
      own security, enhance democracy and distribute its oil
      wealth fairly - provisions designed to attract support
      from Nelson and Pryor.

      The vote was a critical test for Reid and the new
      Democratic majority in the Senate nearly three months
      after they took power. Despite several attempts, they
      had yet to win approval for any legislation
      challenging Bush's policies in a war that has claimed
      the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops and cost in
      excess of $300 billion.

      Republicans prevented debate over the winter on
      non-binding measures critical of Bush's decision to
      deploy an additional 21,500 troops. That led to the
      50-48 vote derailing a bill that called for a troop
      withdrawal to begin within 120 days but set only a
      non-binding target of March 31, 2008, for the
      departure of the final combat forces.

      Some Democrats said they would support the non-binding
      timetable even though they wanted more. "I want a
      deadline not only for commencing the withdrawal of our
      forces but also completing it rather than a target
      date," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

      "This provision represents a 90-degree change of
      course from the president's policy of escalation in
      the middle of a civil war," he said, "I'm confident
      once the withdrawal of our troops begins, there will
      be no turning back."

      Republicans disagreed, strongly. "Wars cannot be run
      from these hallowed and comfortable and sanctified
      chambers 10,000 miles away from the war zone," said
      Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. "How about allowing the officers,
      the men and the commanders in the field who are
      engaged daily, risking their lives to bring peace and
      security to Iraq, determine when and how we can best
      turn over to the Iraqi security forces the critical
      job, the critical job of assuring security."
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