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Thursday, March 15, 2007

IRAQ: U.S Senates Playing Hard-Ball

The Senate rejected Democratic- backed legislation that calls for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq just hours after a House panel approved a plan to bring the troops home.

In the Senate, a measure sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada fell 12 votes short of the 60 needed for passage. It would have revised the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq to say it is no longer valid, and U.S. troops shouldn't be policing an Iraqi civil war.

Even the defeat of the measure was a step toward forcing President George W. Bush to change course in Iraq, said Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

``We ratchet up the pressure on the president, and we ratchet up the pressure on Republican senators,'' Schumer said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the legislation would ``pull the rug out from under the Iraqi people by trying to set artificial deadlines when it comes to U.S. military commitments. If that bill comes before the president, he will veto it.''

Republican senators said war policy should be left to the professionals.

``The generals are more capable of running this war than are the members of this body,'' said Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.

120 Days

Reid's proposal called for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 120 days after final passage of the measure, with a goal of having almost all forces withdrawn by March 31, 2008. Some troops would remain to train Iraqi forces, pursue terrorists and protect U.S. diplomatic sites.

Democratic Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted with Republicans against the withdrawal plan along with Senator Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent.

Only one Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, broke ranks to vote with Democrats.

The Senate also approved a nonbinding resolution proposed by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington that calls for assuring necessary funding, training and equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Senators also approved a nonbinding resolution by Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, saying that Congress should not eliminate or reduce funding for troops in the field.

House Committee

In the House today, a committee voted to demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as it passed a $124 billion emergency measure to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Democratic-controlled House Appropriations Committee voted to require most of the estimated 141,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to be withdrawn by fall of next year at the latest.

Bush met today with Iraq's Vice President Adil abdel Mahdi at the White House, where he told the Iraqi leader that U.S. troop reinforcements will ``give leaders such as yourself the opportunity to do the hard work of reconciliation.''

Bush said in January that he would send about 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to improve security, and some of them are there now.

Mahdi offered an optimistic assessment of the impact of the new security plan. ``We are not finished, but we are doing better than expected,'' Mahdi said after their meeting.

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