Senate Democrats promise “relentless’ flood of anti-war legislation

Snowe, Collins break with party
Senate Republicans prevent Iraq debate

Saying sending more American troops to Iraq is a mistake, Maine’s two senators broke with their Republican Party on Saturday in voting to hold debate on a resolution opposing a troop buildup.

Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were among seven Republican senators who voted in favor of debating a resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, the same resolution passed by the House on Friday.

The Senate vote Saturday to allow debate was 56-34, four short of the needed 60. Most Republicans voted against debate, most Democrats for.

As soon as the Senate returns from recess, Collins said she and others will keep pushing for a debate on the direction in Iraq, “the most pressing issue facing our country.”

“I’m frustrated that the Senate didn’t proceed to full and open debate on Iraq. I expect my constituents are as well,” Collins said during a telephone interview Saturday night. “The American people deserve a full debate on the strategy that the president has proposed and on alternatives.”

Snowe agreed, saying in a prepared statement the Senate must “give full voice to the millions of Americans who want the Senate to fully consider the most consequential issue of our time.” She called the lack of debate about Iraq “deeply disturbing.”

Since returning from her third visit to Iraq in December, Collins said she’s convinced that sending more American troops to Baghdad, where she said a civil war is raging, would be a “major mistake.” Collins favors more troops in western Iraq, but is against overall higher number of troops.

Even though the resolution is nonbinding, Collins predicted it would have an impact if passed.

“If we able to get a strong, bipartisan vote on the resolution disapproving of the surge and asking the president to consider alternatives, the administration could not ignore that,” she said. “I know the president is determined to go ahead. I talked to him three times about the resolution. But I still hold out hope that if the Senate passed a resolution,the president would reconsider.”

After Republicans blocked Senate debate for a second time, Democrats said Saturday they’ll drop efforts to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq and instead will offer a flurry of anti-war legislation “just like in the days of Vietnam.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats would be “relentless.”

“There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment . . . just like in the days of Vietnam,” Schumer said. “The pressure will mount, the president will find he has no strategy, he will have to change his strategy and the vast majority of our troops will be taken out of harm’s way and come home.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “We’re going to move on to other things.”

But with Democrats divided on whether to restrict funds for the Iraq war, and with the Senate unlikely to have the votes right now to buck President Bush, the immediate success of the Democrats’ plan seems difficult. Reid also declined to say exactly what the strategy might include.

Saturday’s rare weekend vote was a political calculation by the Democratic majority, who delayed the start of a weeklong legislative recess to make it happen and called back senators who had left town. One of them, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, squeezed in a morning appearance in New Hampshire, where she told one audience, “We have to end this war and we can’t do it without Republican votes.”

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.”

Democrats had hoped that if enough Senate Republicans felt pressured by the House vote and with national polling showing support for the resolution, they might let a debate go ahead this time. If not, Democrats would have more ammunition to criticize Republicans for backing an unpopular war.


Republicans Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Warner of Virginia,, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania sided with Snowe, Collins and the Democrats in calling for debate to begin. Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joined 33 Republicans to block the vote.

“I am not running from a vote,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky: “Republicans in the Senate have not prevented any debate. What we have prevented is the majority leader dictating to the minority exactly what resolutions we will vote on.”

But several Republicans said Saturday the Iraq debate was too important to hold off any longer.

“If we continue to debate whether there should be a debate while the House of Representatives acts, the Senate will become irrelevant,” said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. “To paraphrase the Roman adage, the Senate should not fiddle while Iraq burns.”

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this week found 63 percent of Americans oppose the troop increase, but at the same time 60 percent oppose cutting funding for those troops.


Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Democrats, “You want to be seen in history, I guess, or for the next election that “this wasn’t my idea, this was Bush’s folly.’

“If you believe half of what you’re saying in these resolutions then have the courage of your convictions to stop this war by cutting off funding. But no one wants to do that because they don’t really know how that’s going to play out here at home.”



(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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AP-NY-02-17-07 1628EST

The unusual weekend session sent presidential contenders in both parties scrambling to make the roll call.

One of them, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, squeezed in a morning appearance in New Hampshire, where she told one audience, “We have to end this war and we can’t do it without Republican votes.”

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.”


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