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Senate Democrats Hope US Voters Will Press for Change of Course in Iraq

U.S. Senate Democrats hope their Republican counterparts will face pressure from voters to change course in Iraq, after Republicans last week blocked legislation calling for a U.S. troop withdrawal from that country. VOA's Deborah Tate has a look at the status of the congressional debate over Iraq, and what comes next.

Shortly after Republicans blocked the measure to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of next April, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, vowed to return to the legislation at a future date - but only when it was clear that there would be more Republican support.

"We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq," he said. "We will come back to this bill when it is clear we can make progress."

Last week's vote fell eight short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward. Democrats believe that in time, enough Republicans will back the measure for it to succeed.

Among them is Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois. He believes that during the congressional recess in August, Republicans will come under pressure from voters for blocking the troop withdrawal proposal. When Congress returns to Washington in September, Durbin argues, Republicans may be more willing to vote in favor of the plan.

"Our colleagues in the Senate are going to have a chance to go home, explain their votes, and vote again, and eventually, I am confident they will join us in changing the direction in Iraq," he said.

A number of Senate Republicans acknowledge their patience with the course of the unpopular war is not open-ended.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he will make his own assessment of the war when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, brief Congress in September.

"I think September is the critical month," he said. "People on both sides expect policy post-September to be based in large measure on what General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have to say."

The House of Representatives has passed its own version of the legislation calling for a U.S. troop pullout from Iraq by next April. Lawmakers in the House may also try to attach Iraq-related amendments to a defense funding bill in the coming weeks.