US Republicans on Monday blocked a Senate debate over a proposed resolution criticizing US President George W. Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq in a setback for the majority Democrats.
In a procedural vote in the 100-member body, Democrats could only muster 49 votes against 47 to proceed on the resolution, which expresses disagreement with Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, when they needed 60 votes to go ahead.
This blocked the body from moving quickly toward a final vote on the non-binding resolution drafted in a compromise by Republican Representative John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin.
While only a technical vote that did not cut off all debate on the resolution, it was a defeat for the Democratic majority and a handful of Republican supporters who wanted to pass a measure opposing Bush's war plan.
An angry Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid lashed out at Republicans for forcing a halt to the debate, calling it a vote to support "this president continuing the same policy of failure in Iraq."
"If they stop us from going forward on this debate, this does not end the debate on Iraq ... You can run but you can't hide. We are going to debate Iraq," the Senate majority leader said.
The fate of the Warner resolution -- which voices disagreement with the deployment of new troops and urges Bush to find other ways to achieve success in Iraq -- remained unclear as Senate leaders from both parties were to resume bargaining.
Meanwhile, several other competing bills were also still pending, some of which strive to restrict Bush's war-making authority by cutting off funding or setting caps on the number of US troops in Iraq.
"The bottom line of the resolutions is the same, Mr. President," Democratic Representative Joseph Biden said earlier as the body argued the Warner resolution: "don't send more Americans into the middle of a civil war."
But Bush's supporters, who have proposed their own resolutions endorsing the war effort, said passing the resolution condemning the troop increase would undermine the military mission.
"Actions have consequences," said independent Joe Lieberman, who supports Bush's war strategy.
"For the Senate to take this unprecedented action on a nonbinding resolution to disavow, disapprove a mission that our troops are being asked to carry out right now, cannot help their morale."
The debate in the upper house of Congress reflected tensions across the country over the Iraq war nearly four years after the US invaded Iraq.
A strong majority of Americans now oppose the war, and less than half have voiced confidence in Bush's new plan.
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