Senate debates Iraq pullout in marathon session

The U.S. Senate continued a marathon debate on the Iraq war early on Wednesday aiming for a showdown vote later in the day on a Democratic plan to withdraw combat troops by April 2008.

Senate debates Iraq pullout in marathon session
In a rare around-the-clock session that began on Tuesday morning, the debate underscored mounting opposition in Congress to a war most Americans no longer support, as well as Democrats' frustration over their inability to stop it.

Republican leaders, using a procedural hurdle, seemed certain to stop a Democratic proposal backed by a majority of the Senate to withdraw U.S. combat troops by April 30, 2008. Even if the withdrawal measure were passed, it likely would face a veto by Republican President George W. Bush.

Republicans denounced the all-night debate as a stunt by Democrats who have drawn fire from voters for failing to deliver on a 2006 campaign vow to withdraw troops.

In fiery exchanges, Democrats noted that more than 3,600 U.S. soldiers have died in the war, now in its fifth year, and that a change in strategy was needed.

"The American people have awoken way before the Senate and they want the nightmare to end. The American people know it's time to responsibly withdraw from Iraq," New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez said.

Republicans warned a troop pullout would embolden terrorists and increase the risk of attack on the United States and said the United States had an obligation to complete the mission in Iraq.

"What next, that's the question we should be debating ... What is the consequences of not fulfilling a moral obligation to clean up a mess we helped create," said Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. "You can say we don't have that obligation, but we do."

As the debate headed into the evening, the drumbeat of opposition to the war was sounded by lawmakers, some war veterans and a small group of protesters who held a candlelight vigil across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

A vote to bring debate to a close and move to passage of the withdrawal plan is set for 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday.

LEVIN MEASURE

Democrats control the Senate 51-49. But they have been unable to prevail because Republicans employed rules requiring 60 votes to clear the way for a vote on the measure offered by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat.

Under the legislation, an unspecified number of non-combat U.S. troops would stay in Iraq after the withdrawal to help train Iraqi soldiers, conduct counterterrorism missions and protect U.S. diplomats and facilities.

The White House has been urging Democrats and wavering Republicans to hold off considering troop withdrawals until mid-September when the Pentagon will deliver a status report on Bush's 7-month-old initiative to secure Baghdad by injecting about 30,000 more soldiers.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2007, 11:37
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