Senate Republicans Block Iraq Troop Pullout

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a briefing. i i

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a briefing. After an all-night debate, Republicans blocked an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that would require the start of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 120 days. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a briefing.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a briefing. After an all-night debate, Republicans blocked an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that would require the start of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 120 days.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Senators gather on Capitol Hill. i i

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walks with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right) of California and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington toward a rally on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Senators gather on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walks with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right) of California and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington toward a rally on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked an effort by Democrats to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq by April.

After an all-night session, 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 quell the sectarian violence in Iraq.

"We have to get us out of a middle of a civil war," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. A political solution must be found "so when we leave Iraq, we don't just send our children home, we don't have to send our grandchildren back."

As members cast their votes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hurried between private meetings with lawmakers in their Capitol Hill offices to make the administration's case for the war.

The Democratic proposal, by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI), would have required the president 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, protection of U.S. assets and the training of Iraqi security forces.

Republicans were mostly unified in their opposition to setting a deadline for troop withdrawals, with a few exceptions. Three Republicans — Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — had announced previously that they would support the measure.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for re-election next year, also voted to advance the bill.

Other GOP members, while uneasy about the war, said they could not support legislation that would force President Bush to adhere to a firm pullout date.

"The amendment tells our enemies when they can take over in Iraq," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who is also up for re-election next year.

The bill "is the wrong approach at the wrong time," he added.

Among lawmakers scheduled to meet with Rice were Biden, Smith, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and House Republican leader John Boehne of Ohio.

From Associated Press reports

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