Iraq War: Irresolute Resolutions – Political Differences

After two days of partisan gridlock, the US Senate seems unable to end the impasse preventing debate on the war in Iraq. 

“The negotiations are over,” declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who accused Republicans of introducing a spending resolution to steer debate away from the issue of President Bush’s Iraq war policy. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hit back that Democrats had unfairly sought to limit consideration to only two resolutions: one bipartisan resolution by Senators John Warner (R-Va.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) opposing the President’s troop surge but pledging to protect money for troops in Iraq; the other by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressing support for the surge and setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government.  

A third, brief resolution proposed by Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) simply opposes any reduction in spending on the war.   

On Monday, Senator Reid said that Democrats were prepared to consider all three resolutions, on the proviso that a simple majority would allow passage. This would have increased the likelihood that the Warner-Levin resolution would be passed. 

But Senate Republicans insisted that a 60-vote minimum be required to pass any resolution, making it likely that the only resolution that would succeed would be the Gregg resolution which essentially backs President Bush.  

“There isn’t a Democrat here that wants to take monies away from the troops,” said Senator Reid. 

The 49-47 procedural vote fell well short of the 60 votes needed to progress debate. 

Democratic leaders accused Republicans of deliberately blocking debate to protect the President from an embarrassing bipartisan rebuke of his troop surge plan. 

“You can run but you can’t hide,” said Senator Reid. “They can maybe stop us temporarily from debating the escalation. They’re not going to stop us from debating Iraq.” 

Senators who supported taking the Warner resolution off the table were unrepentant. “This resolution is not about Congress taking responsibility. It is the opposite. This is a resolution of irresolution,” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who also expressed concern that such a measure might “discourage our troops.” 

However, Senator Levin (D-Mich.) denied that the resolution he co-authored would demoralize US troops in Iraq. “It is an insult to the intelligence of our troops to suggest that somehow or other debating the wisdom of deepening the military presence in Iraq somehow or other emboldens the enemy.”  

Other Republican Senators said they were reluctant to oppose the troop surge because this would court almost certain defeat in Iraq, at a time when the new counterinsurgency strategy is getting underway to secure Baghdad and al-Anbar province. 

“We have just confirmed a general to go over there and try a new strategy,” said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.). “It’s a legitimate debate to ask why are we there. But it’s not the debate we should be having today. The debate we should be having is, what should we be doing to have success in Iraq?”  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has suggested that Democrats in the House may propose their own resolutions opposing the troop surge as early as next week. Shifting the debate to the House, where Democrats enjoy a wider majority, would increase the likelihood of passing a resolution that opposes the troop surge.


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