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Showdown on Iraq Resolution Shifts to US Senate


The U.S. Senate is to hold a procedural vote on a nonbinding resolution expressing disapproval with President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq in a rare Saturday session. The action comes a day after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the measure in a symbolic rebuke to the president's Iraq policy. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Among those senators who support the resolution disapproving of the troop surge in Iraq is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia. He argues that the Iraqis should be taking more responsibility for the effort to end the sectarian violence in their country.

"Our troops should not be in there to decide, do we shoot at a Sunni? Do we shoot at a Shi'ite? That should be the responsibility of the Iraqi forces, and that is the principal reason that I found differences with the president," he said.

But another Republican, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, disagrees, saying the resolution, even though it has no force of law, sends the wrong message. "The resolution can have a very deleterious effect on the morale of our troops, on our enemies, who see it as a sign of weakness, and of course, on our allies, who wonder if we will see the mission through."

Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate, argue that Republicans want to block the resolution from coming to a vote to avoid embarrassing President Bush. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is assistant majority leader. "There is one group in this town that does not want this debate to move forward. Let's be very honest about it: the president and the White House. It is an embarrassment to have your policy rejected and repudiated by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate. It is rare, hardly ever happens. So to spare the political embarrassment, some are trying to stop this debate in the United States Senate."

Saturday's vote in the Senate was announced late Thursday by Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senators, who were to have begun a week-long recess Friday night, had to scramble to cancel travel plans -- including some who had planned to visit Iraq. Some senators who are candidates for the 2008 presidential election, including Senator Hillary Clinton, had to cancel campaign appearances around the country.

On Saturday, the Senate essentially will be voting to allow a vote on the nonbinding resolution.

Under Senate rules, 60 members of the 100-member chamber must approve the procedural measure to clear the way for an up-or-down vote on the resolution.

It will be the second such procedural vote in the Senate on a nonbinding Iraq resolution in two weeks.

Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a similar measure from coming to a vote, arguing that they did so to protest Democratic leaders' decision not to allow a another resolution calling on Congress to continue funding troops in Iraq to come to a floor vote.