Early on Wednesday evening, the Senate once again voted down the Webb amendment, which would have guaranteed that when a soldier’s time in Iraq or Afghanistan ends, they would receive an amount of time at home that is equal to the time they spent in the battlefield. The amendment also said that no member of the Reserves could be sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan within three years of their previous deployment.

The amendment also allowed the president to waive the limits in the case of emergency or a threat to U.S. national security interests. The president can waive the limits by certifying to Congress that the deployment is necessary. Each military department is also able to waive the limits if an individual soldier wishes to volunteer for additional deployments. The last time this amendment was voted on, it missed passing by just four votes. Sen. Webb tried to increase Republican support for his measure by including the provision of a 120 day enactment period that was requested by Defense Sec. Robert Gates.

However, it became clear that the amendment had stalled when influential retiring Republican Sen. John Warner announced that he would not be voting in favor of it this time. Thus, the final vote on the Webb amendment was 56-44. Even with the changes, and without Warner’s support, the amendment garnered exactly the same number of votes that it did last time. Today’s vote was essentially party line. The problem for the Democrats is that the Webb amendment was viewed as the Democratic measure with the best chance of getting the 60 votes needed for passage. A longer term issue for those who are opposed to this war is that President Bush would have vetoed the Webb Amendment if it would have passed, and the Democrats don’t have the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.

The vote today is a reflection of the Democrats bigger dilemma on Iraq. They don’t have the votes to actually change the policy in Iraq, but voters are judging them entirely on their ability to accomplish this one task that they were elected last November to do. I would expect the Democrats to hit the campaign trail next year, and tell voters that they need to send more Democrats to Congress and put a Democrat in the White House if the want to bring an end to the war in Iraq. Iraq should once again be the dominant issue in next year’s campaign, and with the Republican candidates’ stay the course attitude, this won’t be good news for the GOP.

Jason Easley is the politics editor at www.411mania.com/politics His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jason is also the host of TPU Radio, which can be heard at www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse every Sunday morning at 11 AM ET.

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