Despite falling four votes short of breaking a GOP filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed a symbolic victory in the fight over the Iraq War today as Democrats mustered a bipartisan majority of 56 lawmakers to support taking up a resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to increase U.S. troop levels in the war-torn country.
Following the failed cloture vote, Reid withdrew the resolution, essentially ending the chances that it will again come before the Senate this year. In a brief statement following the vote, Reid said that “a majority of the United States Senate just voted on Iraq and a majority of the United States Senate is against the escalation in Iraq.”
Republicans, however, argued that the vote was a victory for their efforts both to back Bush’s plan and to protect the procedural rights of the minority. While Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that “Senate Republicans have indicated once again that they are going to insist on a debate on Iraq that includes funding for the troops,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) characterized the vote as protecting “what the United States Senate has stood for for 200 years … [that] if an idea has 60 votes, it gets out of the Senate.”
Seven Republicans joined 49 Democratic Senators on Saturday in voting to break a filibuster orchestrated by GOP leaders, five more than had joined Reid earlier this month during his first attempt to take up the resolution. GOP Sens. John Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) joined Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), the only two Republicans to previously oppose the filibuster.
Within minutes of the vote, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a statement attacking Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) for supporting the filibuster. Sununu is up for re-election in 2008 and is facing what is expected to be a strong Democratic challenge, and the DSCC’s statement is likely a harbinger of what is to come over the next several months for him and other vulnerable GOP incumbents who opposed the resolution.
At a press conference following the vote, Reid indicated that he would not look to bring a nonbinding resolution to a vote again, although he remained noncommittal on whether his party would look to take steps to forcibly bring Bush’s surge plan to an end. Reid did say that the Senate would take up a bill addressing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission when it returns from the recess and that votes pertaining to Iraq could occur at that time.