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No Progress for Anti-War Senators

September 21, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

It’s been a bad week for legislators who oppose the war in Iraq. The Senate spent the entire week on the Department of Defense Authorization Act, a bill that’s been considered Congress’s best bet for changing the course of the war. But even though several Iraq-related amendments found the support of the majority of the Senate, none were able to clear the 60-vote procedural barrier that was used to keep them from coming to a regular vote.

Here’s a recap of the Iraq-related votes that were held in the Senate this week:

*Jim Webb’s (D-VA) dwell time amendment – defeated by a vote of 56 (in favor) – 43 (against).

The dwell time amendment would require that all soldiers are given as much or more time at home between deployments as was the length of their previous deployment. It also stipulates that a soldier may voluntarily choose to waive his right to a 1-to-1 deployment ratio if she or he wants to return to battle sooner. Furthermore, the President would be able to waive the deployment restrictions altogether by certifying to Congress that the deployment of more troops for an operational emergency that is related to the security of the U.S.

Since the military is operating at a capacity that does not allow a 1-to-1 troop deployment ration, the amendment would have a de facto effect of limiting the number of soldiers that would be available in Iraq.

A very similar amendment was defeated in July by a vote of 56-41.

*John McCain (R-AZ) amendment expressing the “sense of Congress” regarding dwell time goals – defeated by a vote of 55-43.

This “sense of Congress” amendment is a non-binding version of Webb’s dwell time amendment. It states the same goals for allowing soldiers time at home between deployments, but would not make those goals legally binding.

This amendment was offered as an alternative to Webb’s amendment for senators who support the principles behind his plan, but do not want to actually require that they are implemented. John Warner (D-VA), who originally voted for the Webb amendment in July, voted against the Webb amendment this week and for the McCain amendment instead.

*Russ Feingold (D-WI) amendment to end the war by cutting off funding on June 30, 2008 – defeated by a vote of 28-70.

This amendment calls on the president to begin the safe, phased redeployment of soldiers from Iraq who are not involved in conducting limited missions such as targeted counter-terrorism strikes, protecting U.S. infrastructure, and training the Iraqi Army. It would enforce these restrictions by restricting funds for the deployment of soldiers for all other purposes.

This amendment, which has also been introduced into Congress as a separate bill, was defeated once before in May by a vote of 22-69.

*Carl Levin (D-MI) amendment to set a deadline for troop reductions to begin – defeated by a vote of 47-47.

This amendment, often referred to as the "Levin-Reed amendment, would require a withdrawal of troops from Iraq to begin no later than 90 days after its enactment to be completed by June, 30, 2008. It does not involve cutting off funding. It also requires comprehensive changes in diplomatic, political, and economic strategy. For example, it would require the United States Special Representative to the United Nations to seek the appointment of an international mediator to engage Iraqi political, religious, ethnic and tribal leaders in the process of political reconciliation. Troops would remain in Iraq to carry out missions similar to the ones described in the Feingold amendment above.

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