Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Republicans kill Iraq withdrawal legislation

ENDING THE WAR Democrats have struggled since January to pull out US troops, but the Senate's action will give Bush at least two more months to produce results

AP , WASHINGTON

Senate Republicans have torpedoed legislation that would have forced withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, respecting US President George W. Bush's adamant refusal to consider any change in war strategy before September.

Wednesday's 52-47 vote fell far short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation and marked the final act in an all-night session that the Democratic majority engineered to dramatize their opposition to the war.

"Time and the American people are ... on our side," said a defiant Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made ending the war the Democrats' top goal since they took control of the Senate in January.

"We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq," he said moments after the vote.

Equally unyielding on the other side, Arizona Senator John McCain said, "As long as there is a prospect for not losing this war, then we must not choose to lose it."

"I do not know how I could choose any other course," said McCain, a Republican presidential contender.

The Senate's action left no doubt that Bush's decision last winter to deploy additional troops to Iraq will have at least two more months to produce results. General David Petraeus, the top US general in Iraq and architect of the president's latest strategy, is to deliver a report to Congress on Sept. 15.

Wednesday's vote unfolded as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the Capitol for private meetings with lawmakers, and the nation's top military officer cautioned that the US faces decades of fighting in the larger global war on terror.

"We can vote to fight it in one place or another," said General Peter Pace, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is nearing an end.

"But the bottom line is that as long as our enemy is sworn to destroy our way of life, we are going to be in a war," said Pace, addressing troops in Afghanistan.

Inside the Capitol, senators voted from their seats as they settled the fate of the withdrawal measure, a procedure usually reserved only for the most solemn of occasions.

But the outcome was no different from numerous other contested votes this year on the war, yet another demonstration that Democrats lack the votes to force a change in course without the acquiescence at least of Senate Republicans if not the White House.

Expressions of Republican discontent on Iraq have grown in recent weeks, a trend reinforced by an administration report that showed little progress by Iraqis toward political goals. Even so, only four of the Senate's 49 Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, chose to side with Democrats on their demand for a final vote.

Collins said she opposed the legislation itself, which she said offered an "abrupt withdrawal date" that could have disastrous consequences.

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