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Plan to Withdraw US Troops From Iraq Fails Senate Test Vote


A Democratic-sponsored plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by next April has failed a test vote in the U.S. Senate. The vote came after an all-night debate called by Democratic leaders to try to press more Republicans to back the plan. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Weary from the overnight debate, senators voted 52 to 47 to limit speeches and move the troop withdrawal proposal to an up-or-down vote. Supporters needed 60 votes to move the legislation forward.

The vote was largely along party lines, although several Republicans voted with Democrats.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said Republicans were on the wrong side of the issue.

"They chose to stand behind the president in this tragic failure that he has led," he said.

Opponents, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, derided Democrats' decision to keep the Senate in session around the clock, with cots rolled out and pizza delivered late into the night.

"All we achieved are remarkably similar newspaper accounts of our inflated sense of the drama of this display and our own temporary physical fatigue," said McCain.

Those opposed to the troop withdrawal proposal echoed the White House position as they urged fellow lawmakers to wait to assess the situation in Iraq until the top U.S. commander there, General David Petraeus, briefs Congress in September.

"Give General Petraeus and [U.S.] Ambassador [to Iraq Ryan] Crocker 60 more days to prepare their assessment," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican. "At that point, we will have allowed the Baghdad security plan three months to work since it became fully manned last month."

But Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and key sponsor of the troop withdrawal plan, argued otherwise.

"The longer we delay, the more public support erodes, and options to avoid a more chaotic redeployment disappear," said Reed.

Reed's proposal, offered as an amendment to a defense bill, called for a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days and completed by the end of April of next year.

As senators prepared to vote, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with key lawmakers to rally support for the administration's Iraq policy.

After the vote, Majority Leader Reid withdrew the defense bill, along with various Iraq-related proposed amendments, from Senate consideration for the time being. But he vowed to keep returning to the issue until Congress votes to change the U.S. course in Iraq.

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