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Senate Finally Debates Iraq, But Really, Not Much Has Changed

March 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

After three failed attempts, the Senate has finally voted to begin a debate on Iraq. However, the progress made today may only be symbolic. The same roadblocks that stalled the previous debates are going to show up again this time, just a little further down the line.

The Senate passed the cloture vote this morning to begin debate with an overwhelming majority (89-9). The bill in question, which is co-sponsored by Joe Biden (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI), sets a “target date” of March 2008 for troops withdrawal from Iraq to begin.

In the past three attempts, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed for cloture, but gained a few more each time — first, they needed 60 votes, then an extra 11, then 6. Republicans voted against debating the Democrats’ bills each time because they wanted to also have a debate on a Republican alternative offered by Judd Gregg (R-NH) (pictured at right).

Senate Republicans were confident that Gregg’s alternative, which states that Congress will not withdraw funding for troops, would be the only one to find 60 votes and be approved. In allowing the debate to begin today, they are gambling on the same belief holding true. Gregg’s alternative is expected to be proposed to the bill and Republicans’ final vote will be based on how well the amendment fares.

The Politico’s Crypt’s Blog has this rundown of how the debate is likely to proceed procedurally:

>…after getting cloture tomorrow on the motion to proceed to the Biden-Levin resolution, a 30-hour clock will start. The way the Senate works, that 30 hours could be up the following day, although it doesn’t mean there would be a final vote on Biden-Levin on Thursday. Republicans could filibuster the underlying resolution, meaning Reid would have to get 60 votes to cut off debate on the bill. To do that, Reid would need to file another cloture motion. He could not file this second cloture motion until Thursday, with a vote on that motion taking place on Friday. If there is no agreement on amendments, then Republicans will vote against the second cloture motion, and Reid would be forced to move of the resolution onto another matter, meaning no up-or-down vote on Biden-Levin. Republicans would get pummeled, but they are already gambling by even allowing debate on the resolution. Reid, for his part, is gambling that he won’t lose any of his Democrats while voting on the bill, beyond Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who will vote with the Republicans on Iraq anyway.

Also, Joe Biden has put up an online petition that people can sign to show their support for his plan to end the war.

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