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Senate Falls Short on Iraq Troop Withdrawal Bill

July 18, 2007 at 6:10 PM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, a weary Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, said keeping the Senate in all night to debate a contentious troop withdrawal measure was worth it, despite its eventual defeat.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), Illinois: Now the Senate’s on record. Many senators who’ve gone home and said they’re opposed to the war voted to continue the war today. They’ll have to answer to the voters.

And people across America understand what just took place. The Republicans changed the rules when it came to votes on Iraq, put a new standard that makes it very difficult to change the president’s policy. They were loyal soldiers when it came to the president. We want to be loyal to the soldiers who are in battle, and that means starting to bring them home.

An all-night debate

KWAME HOLMAN: For the rare round-the-clock session, cots were rolled in, though only a handful of senators took advantage of them. Outside the Capitol, there were anti-war rallies, while inside dozens of senators took turns speaking from Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), Connecticut: We cannot allow our nation to be defeated in Iraq by the same Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), Ohio: Make no mistake, Mr. President, ending the war itself is a counterterrorism strategy.

KWAME HOLMAN: But despite the speeches and various theatrics, only one additional Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, switched from her previous position.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), Maine: I hope that the Senate will not lose this opportunity to change direction in a responsible, bipartisan way.

The final vote

KWAME HOLMAN: When the vote was called this morning on a Democratic effort to withdraw most combat forces from Iraq by next spring, a total of just four Republicans joined in support. That left Democrats far short of the 60 votes needed to move the effort along.

After the vote, Republican leader Mitch McConnell seemed satisfied.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: I was pleased at the outcome. It's a clear indication that a proposal to try to micromanage the surge before it's hardly begun is not going to pass in the Senate.

KWAME HOLMAN: On the other hand, Democratic leader Harry Reid clearly was frustrated, and he expressed it by shutting down work on a complex defense policy bill until further notice.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader: I think there are other bills that we're going to look at.

KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans were livid.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), Pennsylvania: Those practices, I think, are not only rude, but dictatorial.

McCain's disappointment

KWAME HOLMAN: Arizona's John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: This is a commentary on the lack of comity in the Senate; it's a commentary on where the priorities are of those who brought down this bill. It clearly cannot be the welfare and benefit in arming and training and equipment, both of our active-duty military and the medical care for our veterans.

I am deeply disappointed. I am deeply disappointed. And I would hope that, when the American people are aware that we are letting the men and women who are serving the military down by not passing an authorization bill, they will tell the majority leader and the other side to bring this bill back up.

KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, Democratic aides said it was unlikely that there will be any more legislative efforts to change Iraq policy before September.