One of the struggles of 2007 for those of us pressuring Congress to end the war was the procedural rule in the Senate that requires 60 votes for passage of controversial measures. This week in a change of strategy, Republicans joined some Democrats and voted 70-24 to debate an Iraq withdrawal bill, starting up to 30 hours of debate.
As we reported last week, the Senate planned to bring up two Iraq bills sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), one of which would cut off funds for military operations in Iraq after 120 days, allowing money only for withdrawal of troops and limited missions. The bill will now get a debate and possibly an up-or-down vote because Republicans reversed their strategy, believing that a prolonged debate on the Iraq war will work in their favor:
Republicans remain almost unanimously opposed to any required withdrawal timeline, but they supported opening the debate because they want to draw attention to the decreased violence and other military progress in Iraq since the United States sent an additional 30,000 U.S. troops there last year.
"There’s been so much improvement in the situation in Iraq. Since [Democrats] are the ones who want to turn back to the subject, we’d like to spend the time talking about the dramatic improvements in Iraq," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters moments before a preliminary vote on the withdrawal measure.
The Senate voted 70 to 24 in favor of beginning a debate on a motion to formally vote on the bill, with 43 Republicans joining 26 Democrats and one independent.
In five previous efforts during the past 20 months, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) had not received even 30 votes to bring his bill to a final vote. Not a single Republican had previously supported any of Feingold’s withdrawal bills, which have proposed the deepest cuts of any legislation requiring troop pullouts from Iraq.
Despite claims that the “surge” has been successful, the American public hasn’t been fooled. Polls consistently show that Americans still believe the war was a mistake and a majority don’t believe “victory” is possible. Responding to recent poll numbers and economic woes, opponents of the war in Iraq in Congress are starting to emphasize the links between lack of funds for domestic spending in the US and the massive amount of money being spent on the war in Iraq.