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US Senate Divided on Approach to Iraq War Debate

A day after Senate Republicans blocked a nonbinding resolution expressing disagreement over President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, the Democratic-led Senate Tuesday remained deadlocked over the best way to move the bipartisan measure to the Senate floor for a vote. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Although Senate Democrats and Republicans say they want to be able to vote on nonbinding resolutions on the Iraq war, an issue that will likely influence the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, they have not been able to agree on how best to do it.

Democrats still hope to reach agreement with Republicans on allowing a Senate vote on a resolution sponsored by Senator John Warner of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, which expresses disagreement with President Bush's decision to increase troop strength in Iraq.

But Republicans, who blocked the measure from coming to a vote Monday, are demanding that at least one other Republican-sponsored resolution be allowed to go to the floor for a Senate vote along with the Warner measure. That other resolution, sponsored by Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, includes language saying Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds.

Although a few Democrats, including vocal war critic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, believe congress should consider withholding funds for military operations in Iraq, most senators do not support cutting funds.

It is a point underscored by Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who says Republicans who are offering an alternative resolution just want to change the subject. "This is all a game, a game, to divert attention from the fact that we have before us now an issue that the American people want us to address: whether there should be surge, an escalation, an augmentation of the already disastrous war that is taking place in Iraq," he said.

But Senator Gregg disagrees. "This is not a diversion. This is a responsibility I would think, of every member of the Senate to take a position on whether or not they support giving troops who have been assigned a task the equipment, the financial support, the logistical support they need to protect themselves to carry out the mission," he said.

Supporters of the Warner resolution note that that measure includes language similar to Gregg's resolution calling for congressional funding of the war effort.

But Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and Vietnam War veteran, angrily argued that including language supporting war funding in a resolution that opposes the troop surge in Iraq does not make much sense. "Isn't it true that when I look one of these soldiers or Marines in the eye and say I really support you, my friend, and I know you are going in harm's way, and I do not think you are going to succeed, and I do not support your mission, but I support you, they don't buy it, they don't buy it, I would say," he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to debate and pass a nonbinding resolution similar to Senator Warner's measure next week. Supporters of the Warner resolution hope House action could break the stalemate in the Senate.