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Senate Republicans Block Iraq Resolution


U.S. Senate Republicans have used a procedural vote to block a bipartisan, nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. It is a defeat for Senate critics of the war, who say they will continue efforts to send a strong bipartisan message to the president to change course in Iraq. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The Senate voted 49 to 47 to end debate on the resolution, far less than the majority needed to cut off debate and clear the way for a vote on the measure. The vote was largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

The resolution, sponsored by Senator John Warner of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, expresses disagreement over President Bush's decision to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said Republicans blocked the resolution from coming to a vote because they did not want to embarrass the president.

"What you just saw on the Senate floor was Republicans giving George Bush a green light to escalate the conflict in Iraq," said Harry Reid.

But the Senate's top Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, says he voted to block the resolution not because he wanted to avoid debating the measure, but because he wanted to protest the Democratic leadership's decision to bar two other Republican-sponsored Iraq resolutions from being considered.

"We are not afraid of the debate," said Mitch McConnell. "We are ready to have it. I'm anxious to go forward, but we are going to insist on fair treatment."

One of the resolutions McConnell wants the Senate to consider would underscore the president's commander-in-chief responsibilities under the Constitution. The other would express support for Mr. Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq and set benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet following the deployment.

But McConnell makes clear he opposes the Warner resolution on grounds it sends the wrong message - a point underscored by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who calls himself an independent Democrat:

"It is an act which I fear will discourage our troops, hearten our enemies and showcase our disunity," said Lieberman.

In the end, Senator Warner voted to block his own resolution, agreeing with his Republican leadership that Democrats in control of the chamber should allow other Republican-backed resolutions to be considered. But he made it clear he remains opposed to the president's troop surge plan, saying the Iraqis should take more responsibility for fighting for their country.

"Let them take the brunt of the fight, and maybe we do not need 21,500, together with support, troops to go in and do the job that we have trained these people to do themselves," said John Warner.

Majority Leader Reid expressed disappointment that the resolution was blocked, saying he believed he had assurances from Senator McConnell last week that Republicans would allow the resolution to come to a vote. Reid vowed that the Senate would not abandon the debate over Iraq, and said fellow Democrats would meet Tuesday to discuss how to proceed in the coming days and weeks.

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