ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
A long awaited debate got underway today in the U.S. Senate on resolutions that would put that body on record as either supporting or opposing President Bush's decision to send thousands more U.S. troops to Iraq.
But the Republican Senate minority then voted to block any further consideration of the resolutions. Just before that vote, majority leader Harry Reid warned his Republican colleagues they would be going on record as stifling a debate the American public demands.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): The vote is whether we can proceed to debate the escalation to the war in Iraq. And the Republicans have told everybody they're all going to vote no. Well, if they think this can pop up really easily again, I think they may have another thing coming.
NORRIS: Joining me now from Capitol Hill is NPR congressional correspondent David Welna, who's following this debate. David, just what is it that the Republicans voted against and what does that vote actually mean?
DAVID WELNA: Well, Michele, technically they voted against a motion to proceed. But this kind of move was, in fact, what's better known as a filibuster, which requires only 41 votes to be effective. And in fact, they got 47 Republican votes. And interestingly, several of those no votes came from Republicans who are actually sponsoring the resolution that rejects President Bush's troop increase - such senators as John Warner, its chief sponsor, Chuck Hagel, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman and Olympia Snowe.
And some of them said that they were sure that the parties' two leaders will work how to compromise and the debate can then move forward. But, you know, I think what we saw today was Republican Party loyalty trumping the desire of some Republicans to distance themselves from the president's Iraq policies.
NORRIS: So until they work out that desire to compromise, what is it that Republicans say they're holding out for?
WELNA: Well, GOP leaders say they want not just one resolution supporting the troop increase - also considered, which Democrats were willing to let them have - but two pro-administration resolutions. Democrats would not agree to considering both those resolutions under the same terms that Republicans insisted on. They specially objected to a resolution that repeats language that's also found in Warner's amendment that says Congress won't take any action endangering U.S. forces in the field, including reducing their funding.
And that's a resolution that some Republicans who would oppose that troop increase would find it easier to vote for. And GOP leaders wanted a 60-vote threshold to that. And there was a chance that that would be the only resolution coming out of the debate this week. If it had happened, then we'd get 60 votes.
NORRIS: Now, we just heard some tough talk from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. What's the fallout from this vote likely to be?
WELNA: Well, I think you're going to have a lot of incriminations from Democrats saying that Republicans have killed the debate on Iraq. But at the same time, Democrats are vowing that this is going to go forward, and the problem is figuring out just when they can do this. Now, I think some Democrats may actually be secretly glad that this is not happening at this point because they were quite uncomfortable with some of the language in John Warner's resolution, such as the language that says there won't be any cutoff for funding for troops or that troop levels will not be reduced, another item in there.
And I think that they thought that that would foreclose the possibility of taking binding action down the road for them. So right now, I think, Majority Leader Reid is looking for an opening for bringing this up again. But they've got a big continuing resolution, a stopgap spending measure that they have to consider later this week. And it's looking very unlikely that they're going to have this debate unrolled this week as they had planned.
NORRIS: Just quickly, David, if it doesn't come up this week, when might it come up again?
WELNA: Well, it could come up possibly next week. But most certainly, I think we're going to have a debate over the Iraq policies when Congress considers the money that President Bush is asking for in his budget, especially $245 billion for the war.
NORRIS: Thank you, David.
WELNA: You're welcome.
NORRIS: That was NPR congressional correspondent David Welna.
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