A weary and sharply divided US Senate headed toward a showdown vote yesterday on an apparently doomed Democratic plan to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq by the end of next April.
Capping an around-the-clock debate, the vote was expected about 11am.
The legislation proposed by Democrats Carl Levin and Jack Reed would require US President George W. Bush to begin pulling troops out of Iraq in 120 days. After April 30, an unspecified number of troops would be allowed to remain in Iraq to fight terrorists, protect US assets and train Iraqi security forces.
However, Republicans appeared certain to succeed with a procedural roadblock that would stop the troop pullout plan opposed by the White House.
While a majority of lawmakers back the plan, the Senate seemed several votes short of the needed 60 to clear the roadblock and allow a vote on passage. Democrats have only a 51-49 majority over Republicans.
Republicans denounced the marathon debate as a stunt by the Democrats. Cots were setup in a room near the Senate to help lawmakers get some rest during the night, which also featured food deliveries and heated exchanges.
"Republicans will need to choose whether they want to protect the president or protect our troops," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell answered: "The Democrats, unfortunately, are trying to undermine the efforts of our troops and restrict the ability of our generals to carry out their mission."
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