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US Senate Rejects Measure to Cut Off Funding for Iraq War


The U.S. Senate has rejected, by a 28 to 70 vote, a Democratic-sponsored measure to withdraw troops from Iraq and cut funding for the war. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The measure, proposed as an amendment to a defense bill, called for most U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by next June and cutting off financing for military operations.

Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who sponsored the legislation, argued the war in Iraq is taking attention and resources away from the larger global war on terrorism.

"What I am concerned about is that a continued effort in Iraq could lead to the ultimate failure to fight against those who attacked us on 9/11. It could lead to a surrender, a true surrender, against those who declared war on us on September 11th, 2001," he said.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued strongly against the proposal, which he said would result in defeat for the United States. He said President Bush's troops surge in Iraq should be allowed more time to work, noting that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told Congress last week that the surge has been making progress.

"Should the United States Congress succeed in terminating the new strategy by legislating an abrupt withdrawal on a transition to a new, less effective and more dangerous course, should we do that, then we will fail for certain," he said.

The defeat of the Feingold measure was not unexpected. The Senate rejected a similar proposal in May. Most lawmakers oppose cutting funding for the war effort, concerned that that would harm the troops.

The vote comes a day after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan measure to allow troops more time at their home bases between deployments. It was embraced by Senate Democratic leaders as a modest step toward changing the course of the war, as it could have affected troop levels. But the proposal failed to receive the necessary 60 votes to cut off debate and move the legislation to a final vote. The action makes it unlikely that other legislative measures aimed at changing the direction of the Iraq war will succeed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, argues that Republicans "are more concerned about protecting President Bush than the troops."

"What we are seeing here on this issue, the issue of the war on Iraq, is a far cry from deliberation. It is obstructionism, strictly outright obstructionism," he said.

Republicans defend their position, saying now is not the time to change course in Iraq when the troop surge is making progress.

The Senate Friday is to vote on a measure sponsored by Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that would change the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to training Iraqi forces.

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