Senate Heads to Showdown on Iraq
By: John Bresnahan Politico
February 5, 2007 04:43 PM EST
The Senate headed to a showdown vote Monday over whether to begin a highly anticipated debate on the Iraq war. And neither Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared willing to concede early ground in setting the rules for the floor fight.
McConnell is insisting that Republicans be allowed to offer two alternatives to a bipartisan Iraq resolution crafted by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., which opposes President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.
One alternative by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina backs the president’s surge plan but sets benchmarks for political and economic progress by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Another alternative by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., states that funding for the U.S. military mission in Iraq will not be cut off.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid slammed McConnell and the Republicans, suggesting GOP leaders were afraid to debate Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and not interested in planning floor debate.
"What is the excuse - and I say excuse - that they aren't going to let the American people hear the United States Senate debate the escalation of the war in Iraq?" Reid asked. "This claim…a feeble claim, that they haven't been guaranteed a vote on amendments...is just not credible. They have rejected, through their leader - they, the Republicans - three compromises that would have permitted the Senate to vote on the president's plan."
Reid said that McConnell had rejected the opportunity for simple majority votes on the McCain-Graham and the Warner-Levin resolutions and, later, on the Gregg resolution as well.
Then, Reid said he had asked McConnell if he would allow super-majority votes on two of the proposals, meaning they would need 60 votes for approval. And McConnell declined again, Reid added.
"The minority can't rubber stamp the president's policies in Iraq anymore,’’ Reid said, “so they've decided to stamp out debate and let the president's actions in Iraq proceed unchecked."
At a news conference with other Republican Senate leaders, McConnell defended their decision to filibuster the motion to begin the Iraq debate.
"We're not stalling," he said. "We're using ... the power of a robust minority."
A Senate Democratic leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, suggested that McConnell is “just trying to avoid” a vote on Iraq because he knows that a majority of the Senate – including Warner and a handful of other Republicans – are opposed to Bush’s surge plan. And the political fallout for Bush if the Senate adopts a resolution opposing the surge, even if it’s legally non-binding on the White House, could be enormous.