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Old 03-27-2007, 06:10 PM   #1
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Senta Votes to Preseve Troop Withdrawl Deadline!!!!
Senate vote preserves withdrawal deadline

POSTED: 5:53 p.m. EDT, March 27, 2007

Story Highlights
• NEW: Senate defeats bill to strip deadline from funding bill
• Administration contends setting timetable assumes failure in Iraq
• Bill sets spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wants March 2008 deadline
• Bill is similar to one passed earlier by the House but with earlier deadline

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defying a veto threat, the Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March.

Republican attempts to scuttle the nonbinding timeline failed on a vote of 50-48, largely along party lines.

The roll call marked the Senate's most forceful challenge to date of the administration's handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops.

Three months after Democrats took power in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the moment was at hand to "send a message to President Bush that the time has come to find a new way forward in this intractable war."

But Republicans -- and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat -- argued otherwise.

John McCain, R-Arizona, a presidential hopeful, said that "we are starting to turn things around" in the Iraq war and that a timeline for withdrawal would embolden the terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.

The effect of the timeline would be to "snatch defeat from the jaws of progress in Iraq," agreed Lieberman, who won a new term last fall in a three-way race after losing the Democratic nomination to an anti-war candidate.

As the Senate debated the bill Tuesday, the White House issued another stern warning to Congress that the president would reject any legislation setting a timetable on the war.

"That's not surprising from a White House that has stubbornly refused to change course even in the face of dwindling support from American people whose sons and daughters are dying" said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

The administration contends that setting a timetable on the war assumes failure in Iraq.

"This and other provisions would place freedom and democracy in Iraq at grave risk, embolden our enemies and undercut the administration's plan to develop the Iraqi economy," the White House said in a statement.

The $122 billion bill would fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but order Bush to begin bringing some troops home right away, with the goal of ending combat missions by March 31, 2008.

The bill is similar to one the House passed last week, but with a tougher deadline. While the Senate identifies March 2008 as a goal -- giving the president leeway to ignore the deadline -- the House voted 218-212 to require all combat troops out as of August 31, 2008.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, has proposed striking the withdrawal provision, which GOP members say would broadcast the nation's war plans to the enemy and tie the hands of military commanders.

"It's a bad message all the way around," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona.

Whether Republicans have enough votes to beat the narrow Democratic majority depends upon their ability to entice Democratic defections.

Senate Democrats hold a slim 51-49 majority. And with Lieberman supportive of the president's Iraq policy and Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota recuperating from a brain hemorrhage, Democrats this year have been unable to push through legislation critical of the war.

On March 15, the Senate rejected by a 50-48 vote a resolution calling for troops to leave by March 2008. Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon sided with Democrats in support of the measure, but Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas opposed announcing a timetable for withdrawal.

Since then, Reid and others have altered the legislation in hopes of persuading the two Democrats. The changes include a series of suggested goals for the Iraqi government to meet to provide for its own security, enhance democracy and distribute its oil wealth fairly.

Nelson has since swung behind the bill, contending the benchmarks are necessary to measure progress.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, predicted Monday he had the votes to strike the withdrawal language. But even if he fails to keep it out of a final bill -- after it is negotiated with the House -- McConnell said Republicans won't block final passage because he knows the president will veto it, the sooner the better.

Unable to override Bush's veto, Democrats would have to redraft the bill without a "surrender deadline," McConnell said.

"We're not interested in letting the political posturing get in the way" of providing resources to the troops, he said.

The legislation also provides about $20 billion in domestic spending and increasingly looks like a magnet for far-flung issues such as a proposed increase in the minimum wage.

Republicans have demanded tax cuts as a condition for their support of a higher minimum wage, and officials said key senators were drafting a provision for debate that would include both those issues. It calls for tax cuts at least as high as the $8.3 billion package the Senate passed earlier, if not larger. House Democrats have labeled that amount excessive.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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