WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans Friday blocked the latest effort by Democrats to end the Iraq war, rejecting a $50 billion military funding package that would have required President Bush to begin withdrawing troops.
The 53 to 45 tally fell seven votes short of the 60 needed and signaled that the contours of the war debate, now nearing its one-year anniversary, have barely changed. An alternative GOP proposal, which would have provided $70 billion with no strings attached, failed 53 to 45, falling 15 votes short.
The Democratic version was approved by the House earlier this week. It would have required President Bush to start a phased redeployment of U.S. forces within 30 days of enactment, while shifting the military role in Iraq to specific missions. Those include protecting U. S. diplomatic facilities, assisting Iraqi security forces and engaging in targeted counterterrorism operations. It set a Dec. 15, 2008, goal for completing the process.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he may bring the Democratic bill back to the floor in December. He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have agreed that Bush will not receive more war funding this year unless he accepts Democratic withdrawal terms.
That’s out of the question, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, who dismissed the Democratic vote as a political stunt.
“Once again, they tried to pass a bill that provides incremental funding, tries to micromanage the war from the halls of Congress,” said Fratto. Democrats “know that such a bill will be vetoed, should it ever come to the president’s desk.”
In May, Bush vetoed an Iraq spending bill that contained Democratic withdrawal conditions, and Congress backed off. Reid and Pelosi said they would not consider a new approach to the funding request until January. In the meantime, they said, the Pentagon could draw from its $471 billion annual budget to cover war expenses.
Republicans said they expect to win the funding showdown eventually – just as they did this summer, owing to the mathematical reality of the Democrats’ tiny 51 to 49 majority in the Senate.