Less than one week after Democrats unveiled plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008, the Congressional-controlling party faced a rude awakening: Republicans still have a strong say over measures concerning the war.
On Thursday, the Senate rejected the Democratic resolution by a vote of 50 to 48, with most leaders voting along party lines. Two Democratic senators, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas also voted against the measure, as did former Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman, now an independent.
The resolution, which seeks to redefine the U.S. mission in Iraq and calls for a military pullout by March 31, 2008 (see "Democrats Unveil Plan To Withdraw Troops From Iraq By 2008"), required a "supermajority" of at least 60 votes to gain approval.
Also on Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved an emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, requiring that troops receive training, equipment and time off between deployments — though it would allow the president to override those stipulations in the interest of national security. Much like the bill rejected in the Senate, the proposal calls for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq (by September 1, 2008) and sets the stage for another showdown between parties.
Yesterday's Senate vote is largely seen as a victory for President Bush, who had threatened to veto any measure to remove troops. The president has gone on record with his staunch disapproval of a withdrawal from Iraq before the "mission is complete." At a Republican fundraising event Thursday, the president said the "scale and scope of attacks would increase and intensify" should the Democrats' proposed plan pass.
However, not all those who voted down the measure see eye-to-eye with the president. Many senators who voted with Bush yesterday did so because they oppose the Democrats' timetable for the withdrawal of troops to begin — as early as four months from now.
"That is such a short time frame for withdrawal," Senator Susan Collins, a Democrat from Maine, told The New York Times. Senator Collins voted against the measure yesterday, but has previously voiced her displeasure with Bush's plans to send more troops to Iraq (see "President Bush Orders 21,500 More Troops To Iraq; Democrats Blast Plan").
The Democrats' plan does not call for a total withdrawal of military presence in Iraq. Under the measure, a limited number of troops would still be deployed on counterterrorism duty and to train Iraqi forces.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went on record Thursday saying she believes the U.S. requires troops in Iraq beyond 2009. Clinton echoed the comments of her Senate colleagues, maintaining that her vision calls for military to take on a more precautionary role, but it is not yet clear if Clinton's timetable for a pullout is in line with that of the Democratic Party.
Earlier in the week, presidential rival Senator Barack Obama laid out similar agenda to Clinton's, saying he would also like to see a gradual withdrawal of troops followed by a smaller deployment of military in a preventative role, CNN reported.
The House is set to vote on the emergency spending bill Thursday.