Filibuster Kills Troop Withdrawal Bill
After staying up all night to make a point, Senate Democrats allowed a cloture vote on the troop withdrawal bill. As expected, it easily failed.
Senate Republicans scuttled a Democratic proposal ordering troop withdrawals from Iraq in a showdown Wednesday that capped an all-night debate on the war. The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate under Senate rules. It was a sound defeat for Democrats who say the U.S. military campaign, in its fifth year and requiring 158,000 troops, cannot tame the sectarian violence in Iraq.
The Democratic proposal, by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., would have required President Bush to start bringing home troops within 120 days and complete the pullout by April 30, 2008. Under the bill, an unspecified number of troops could remain behind to conduct a narrow set of missions: counterterrorism, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi security forces.
Republicans were mostly unified in their opposition to sidetrack the legislation, with four exceptions. Three Republicans — Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — announced previously they support setting a deadline on the war. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is up for re-election next year, also voted to advance the bill. Spokesman Kevin Kelley said Collins believes the measure should be subject to a simple majority vote and not the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. She opposes the legislation, however, Kelley said.
But voting to end debate is essentially a vote for the legislation, given the numbers. Even if Collins had voted the other way on an up-and-down vote, it would still have been 51-48.
Unless Collins opposes the filibuster as an institution — a defensible position, certainly — it’s hard to make a case for not filibustering this piece of legislation. This is, after all, the most crucial issue of our day. If anything should be subject to the veto of a vehement minority, it’s a change in war policy.