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Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) (right), answers questions during a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about Iraq war funds.
Senators soundly rejected a measure that would have cut off funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by next April. But a majority also embraced tougher White House reporting requirements for a war-funding bill the Senate has yet to complete.
Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq by cutting off funding, but Wednesday's procedural vote in the Senate showed that at this point, it does not have the political will to do so. Senators rejected the measure to cut war funding by March 31, 2008, by a vote of 29-67.
In another procedural vote, the Senate supported the measure on reporting requirements, which also includes benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
In a sense, Wednesday's tallies were really test votes. One of the votes was on a measure sponsored by Russ Feingold (D-WI), who proposed cutting off funding for the Iraq war by March 31, 2008.
"It is time to end a war that is draining our resources, straining our military and undermining our national security," Feingold said. "And the way to do that is by using our power of the purse to safely bring our brave troops out of Iraq."
Feingold's measure put the crew of Senate Democrats running for president on the spot, since all of them have been calling for an end to the war. Only 28 Democrats and one independent voted for the measure. But among them was every Democratic presidential contender: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Dodd, and Joseph Biden, who said he did so with some reluctance.
"I'm not crazy about the language in the Feingold amendment," Biden said, "but I am crazy about the fact that we gotta keep the pressure on."
And although 67 senators voted against using the power of the purse to end the war, hardly anyone argued against the measure.