Effort to Force Vote on Iraq Troop Pullout Fails A majority of the Senate was ready to have the vote, but Senate rules require 60 votes to cut off debate, and only four Republicans were willing to join the Democratic majority in favor of doing that Wednesday.
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Effort to Force Vote on Iraq Troop Pullout Fails

Hear NPR's David Welna

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Sleep-deprived senators today failed to break a Republican filibuster against a vote on troop withdrawal from Iraq. That came after the Senate pulled an all-nighter from yesterday into today, debating troop withdrawals. Today's vote was a victory for President Bush. He said a growing number of Republican lawmakers publicly distanced themselves from the White House on Iraq, but Mr. Bush held his party together today. Democrats vowed to keep pushing to end the war.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: Senate GOP leaders knew that if the bipartisan troop withdrawal amendment came to a vote, it would pass with more than a simple majority. So they demanded unlimited time to debate bringing up the measure. It's a move better known as a filibuster, which can only be broken with 60 votes.

Democrats responded by holding a nightlong debate. Arizona Republican John McCain was one of many senators who spoke in the pre-dawn hours. Back on the Senate floor this morning, the presidential hopeful said he understood how, with all the mistakes civilian and military leaders have made, many Americans are sick and tired of the Iraq war.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arkansas): I, too, have been made sick at heart by these mistakes and the terrible price we have paid for them. But I cannot react to these mistakes by embracing a course of action that I know will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal, historical proportions, which will - and I am as sure as this of I am of anything - seriously endanger the people I represent.

WELNA: Other Republicans accuse Democrats of cutting and running, even though some GOP senators have indicated they, too, might vote for a change of course in Iraq once they hear from General David Petraeus and his assessment of the situation there in mid-September. New York Democrat Charles Schumer said President Bush might beat them to it.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): When the president, in September, decides to withdraw troops, which he will have to do given both the facts on the ground and the pressures from his side of the aisle, are those colleagues going to accuse the president of cut and run?

WELNA: Democrats hope to persuade Republicans who've been critical of the war to vote with them today and break the filibuster. Michigan's Carl Levin co-sponsored the troop withdrawal amendment.

Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): Colleagues, our amendment deserves the chance to be voted on by this body. The American people deserve that vote. They deserve to know if we support a timetable to reduce our troop presence in Iraq. They deserve to know whether each of us favor a change of course in Iraq.

WELNA: In the end, four Republicans joined every Democrat and one independent in voting to end the filibuster. But their combined votes fell short of what was needed. Still, after the vote, number two Democrat Dick Durbin hailed the fact that Maine Republican Susan Collins, who's seeking reelection, voted for the first time to allow such an amendment.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): At the end of this debate, we're all a little bit weary, but we're one vote closer to ending this war. Was it worth it? I think it was. Now, the Senate is on record. Many senators who've gone home and said they're opposed to the war voted to continue the war today. They'll have to answer to the voters.

WELNA: Republicans were furious that Majority Leader Harry Reid has now decided to shelve the defense bill until the votes allowed on the troop withdrawal amendment. Here is Arizona's Jon Kyl.

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): To hijack the defense authorization bill for the debate over Iraq, and then when that vote has occurred to pull the bill so that the bill cannot be acted upon for the benefit of our veterans and our troops, is a very irresponsible action on the part of the Democratic leadership.

WELNA: Majority Leader Reid, for his part, said Democrats won't be giving up trying to end the war. And he refused to say what his next move will be.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): I'm not tipping(ph) my neck, okay? We have a lot of other arrows in our quiver. And our quiver is filled with the wishes of the American people.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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