May 17 2007

Senate still shy of agreement on Iraq war future

Medill Reports

by Laura Onstot

WASHINGTON – A move to force a Senate vote on an amendment to get troops out of Iraq by the spring of 2008 was soundly defeated Wednesday.

The motion to end debate on such a timeline was defeated 67 to 28. Four senators did not vote.

Opponents included 19 Democratic senators. Sen. Richard Shelby said he hopes the vote is a sign legislators on both sides of the aisle are willing to start looking at a compromise for continued Iraq war funding that does not include withdrawal dates.

“I think it breathes some reality into the situation – the political situation on the hill,” Shelby, R-Ala., said in a phone interview following the vote.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., also voted against the motion.

Shelby said he would not be opposed to legislation that includes goals or benchmarks for the fledgling Iraqi government, even though he supported the president’s veto of the Iraq war funding bill passed by the Senate last month with a timetable for withdrawal.

“I think we have to start with the basic premise that whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican that we’re all concerned with the situation in Iraq – and frustrated,” Shelby said.

The vote itself was procedural, not a vote on the actual amendment. Such votes are often seen as a means to test the positions of senators.

A similar motion to force a vote on a Republican proposal tying some U.S. aid to benchmarks for the Iraqi government failed to receive the required three-fifths majority, but obtained a simple majority.

Both Shelby and Sessions supported that motion.

The series of votes Wednesday means that debate on the Iraq war will continue. The senators did pass a non-binding resolution expressing the need for a final Iraq war bill by Memorial Day.