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Senate Dems Send Out Iraq Feelers, Are Tickled WIth Findings

May 16, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate wants to get an Iraq bill sent off to the President as soon as possible. So, today, instead of spending time debating the bill, they voted on three Iraq-related amendments to serve as guides to conferees. The bill itself will be quickly approved tomorrow after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) offers an amendment that will express “our continuing support for our troops and will serve as a bipartisan vehicle that will allow us to move to conference.”

The conference committee, which will meet next week, will be responsible for deciding upon a compromised version of the bills as passed by the House and Senate. The single bill that they agree upon will then go back to the separate chambers for final approval before being sent off to the President to be either vetoed or signed into law.

Of the three guiding amendments that the Senate voted on today, only one, offered by Thad Cochran (R, MS), was approved. That amendment was non-controversial; it simply expressed that it is “the sense of the Senate” that the Iraq bill be completed and sent to the President by May 28, when Congress will leave for Memorial Day recess.

The other amendments, as expected, fell short of the 60 votes that were needed to simply move towards actually being debated. However, according to subscription-only Congress Daily, “Majority Leader Reid said today’s roll calls reflected a desire by both parties to change the course [in Iraq] pursued by President Bush.”

The amendments were offered to the Water Resources Development Act. Because it was clear from the outset that none of these amendments would get enough votes to pass, the fact that they were non-germane, poison-pill amendments was ignored. The idea was simply to evaluate the Senate’s positions on the proposals in order to help guide conference committee negotiations. Therefore, headlines like “”">Iraq Withdrawal Move Thwarted in Senate," which they AP is currently running, are misleading. The Politico has brief descriptions of the other two guiding amendments:

Feingold amendment

>This proposal would require the United States to begin a “safe, phased redeployment” of its troops beginning 120 days after enactment, with the pullout completed by March 31, 2008. The only U.S. forces left in Iraq after that would be to protect American personnel, conduct counter-terrorism operations, and train Iraqi forces.

Defeated 67-29. Feingold (pictured above) is happy with this result. His reason: “A majority of Senate Democrats are on the record clearly stating that the President’s Iraq policy is a failure and that we need to take real action to change course.”

Warner amendment

>This is the most complicated of the bunch. It states that “there is no military solution” to end the sectarian violence in Iraq, and establishes benchmarks for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to achieve in order to continue receiving U.S. support. [Click here for a description of the benchmarks]
>Bush would be required to submit a report to Congress by July 15 on the progress that Maliki’s government is making in achieving those benchmarks, followed by a second report on Sept. 15. Failure to achieve those benchmarks would require a reduction in U.S. economic support for Iraq. Bush could waive these requirements if he submits a report to Congress on why he is doing so.
>The U.S. could withdraw its forces from Iraq “if the components of the Iraqi government… reaching a consensus… directing a redeployment of U.S. forces.”
>$750,000 would also be appropriated for a non-profit group to study the readiness and capabilities of Iraqi forces.

Defeated 52-44. The roll call details are not yet available for this vote. I will post them as soon as they are. This vote sends a strong signal to conferees because a majority of the Senate voted in favor of it.

UPDATE: here are the roll call results for the Warner amendment.

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