Today Senate Republicans blocked a final vote on an amendment that would have mandated the start of a withdrawal of troops from Iraq within 120 days. The final vote on the motion to cut off debate on the Levin-Reed amendment was 52-47. This total was eight votes shy of the number needed for passage. Only four Republicans joined with the Democrats to vote for the motion to end debate, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME). The rest of the Senate Republicans seem to be determined to let President Bush’s troop surge have two more months before the Petraeus report is released in September.

Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “We need to give General Petraeus until September to do his work. That’s a commitment we made and signed into law. We need to stand by that commitment.” Sen. Joe Biden said that the extra two months won’t make a bit of difference. “I don’t believe there’s a dozen Republican senators who believe that the results are going to be fundamentally different on September the 5th than they are today, although I respect the fact that they’ve concluded they want to wait to give the president every opportunity to demonstrate that his plan can work,” Biden said on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed his disappointment with “obstructionist” Republican tactics. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is extraordinarily discouraging.  First they prevented us from acting on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.  Then on changing the course in Iraq.  And now this.  We have all seen and heard the reports that our intelligence community has concluded Al Qaeda strength has grown to its 9/11 levels and the Homeland Security Secretary’s statement that he had a ‘gut feeling’ we were at greater risk to be attacked this summer by terrorists.  In spite of all of this, we have just seen the latest example of Republican obstruction to slow or prevent Senate consideration of bipartisan legislation that would make America more secure.”

Reid then surprised many by setting aside the defense authorization bill, and moving on to education funding. “I have temporarily laid aside the Defense Authorization bill and have entered a motion to reconsider.  But let me be clear to my Republican colleagues – I emphasize the word “temporarily.”  We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq.  We will do everything in our power to complete consideration of a Defense Authorization bill.  We must do both.  And just to remind my Republican colleagues – even if this bill had passed yesterday, its provisions would not take effect until October.  So we will come back to this bill as soon as it is clear we can make real progress,” Reid said. 

The Senate will be taking a one month recess in August, so the earliest it will return to the Iraq war debate, and the defense authorization, bill is September. Not so coincidentally, this is around the same time when the next status report will be issued on Iraq. I still don’t think we will see a mass defection of Senate Republicans away from the president’s position until we get into next year, and Republicans see that they are about to take another beating at the polls in November.

Everyone is concentrating on the magic number of 60 votes which are needed for the passage of a bill to withdraw the troops, but President Bush will veto any bill that will withdraw troops. In reality, the Democrats need 67 votes to override a presidential veto, and I think the only way this war will definitely end is if the voters elect more anti war candidates in 2008, so that no matter who wins the presidential election the troops can be brought home.

Harry Reid’s remarks on the Senate floor

Mitch McConnell’s remarks

Biden speech on the Senate floor 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at

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