An amendment proposed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) that would have required that troops serving in Iraq be given leave time equal to the number of days they served in combat was blocked today by Senate Republicans. The surprise here was that the vote on fell only 4 short of the 60 that were needed to cut off debate. The Webb amendment picked up support from 7 Republicans.  The seven Republicans who voted for the amendment were Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Norm Coleman(R-MN), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), Sen. John E. Sununu (R-NH) and Sen. John W. Warner (R-VA). Except for Snowe, all of these Republicans are up fro reelection next year.

At a news conference after the vote Sen. Webb said, “I regret that we did not reach the 60-vote margin that would have caused this amendment to prevail.  It was offered in the spirit of bipartisanship. It was offered with the intention to protect the wellbeing of our troops. We had two days to debate it.  There were a lot of representations on the other side that were not particularly true and, unfortunately, this ended up breaking down, for political reasons, into, for the most part, a resistance by the Republicans on an issue that we just shouldn’t have had political implications.”

Sen. Chuck Hegel was the only Republican appearing at the press conference. He said, “This was about the right thing to do in regard to our men and women who we ask to defend this country. And if we can’t get that right, then I don’t know what we can get right.  And if we can’t do this in an honest, direct way, then we is going to have to go back and reevaluate everything. So I think that not only was this a correct and responsible course of action and I was very pleased that I had a number of my Republican colleagues join me on this, but we will be back and I will be introducing later today, with a number of the people up here and with Republican colleagues, another similar amendment that Jim Webb and I introduced a couple of months ago.”

Opponents of the amendment, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “It is a disaster in the making to allow any Congress during any war to step in and say troops can only go here and they can’t go there, they have to stay home this much — it just basically destroys the ability of commanders in the field to get the resources they need to fight and win.” Webb countered by pointing out that he was a former Secretary of the Navy and that every senator who had ever served in ground combat co-sponsored the bill.

The real reason why many Republicans voted against this bill has nothing to do with commanders. If soldiers had to be given leave time equal to their combat tours, there wouldn’t be enough soldiers to fight the war. The Webb amendment would have ended the policy of abuse that has seen soldiers deployed 5, 6, or even 7 times to Iraq. The Webb amendment is about proper treatment for the troops, and here is hoping that more Republicans eventually see the light.

Washington Post article

Transcipt of press conference

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

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse

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