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US Senate Rejects Measure to Withdraw US Troops from Iraq by March 2008


The U.S. Senate has rejected by a 50 to 48 vote a Democratic-sponsored measure calling for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by March of next year. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The vote was largely along party lines in the narrowly-divided Senate, with minority Republicans opposing the measure on grounds that it would embolden the enemy and allow lawmakers to micromanage the war in Iraq.

"This is a dangerous piece of legislation. It is constitutionally dubious, and it would authorize a scattered band of United States senators to literally tie the hands of the commander in chief at a moment of decisive importance in the fight against terrorism in Iraq," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in the Senate.

Several Democrats crossed party lines to join Republicans in opposition to the measure. Only one Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, voted for the resolution, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Reid argued that President Bush's plan in Iraq is not working. "Iraq is in a state of chaos. There is literally no stability. United States troops are policing a civil war, a protracted civil war," he said.

Although the measure was defeated, supporters say their votes reflect the sentiment of the American people, whom public opinion polls show disapprove of the Iraq war.

Senate Democrats note they will have another chance to debate the war when President Bush's supplemental budget request for Iraq and Afghanistan comes to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

On the House side, Democrats were more successful in moving forward a measure calling for a troop pullout next year. The House Appropriations Committee approved a measure calling for troops to be withdrawn no later than September 2008, along with $95 billion more in funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. The full House is to take up the measure next week.

Although the Senate voted down the resolution on the U.S. troop withdrawal, it passed two other measures that expressed support for the troops. A Republican-backed resolution said no funds should be cut for U.S. troops in the field, while a Democratic-backed measure said congress and the president have shared responsibility for troops in wartime and for their medical care when they are wounded.

The latter resolution came in response to the scandal surrounding Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a key military hospital where reports of substandard outpatient care for wounded Iraqi veterans led to the ouster of several high-ranking Army officials.

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