The Senate is continuing a marathon debate on a Democratic measure that would begin a withdrawal from Iraq but still leave thousands of troops behind. Democrats forced the chamber into a rare all-night session that began Tuesday morning. With Republican leaders vowing a filibuster, Democrats are expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to break a Senate deadlock. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: It happens rarely, an all-night debate, and it’s continuing, on legislation for most combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of April. Democrats forced the Senate chamber into a rare all-night session that began Tuesday morning. They called for sleeping cots to be rolled into a room off the Senate floor and told members to prepare for repeated votes throughout the evening. Senators even left open the possibility of dispatching the sergeant-at-arms to summon colleagues from their homes to the floor if lawmakers ignored the debate.
The legislation, proposed by Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, would order most combat troops to start withdrawing from Iraq in 120 days and complete the pullout by April 30th, 2008. Under the bill, an unspecified number of troops could remain behind to fight so-called “terrorists,” protect U.S. assets and train Iraqi security forces. Republican leaders, using a procedural hurdle, are vowing to enforce a 60-vote threshold for passing the proposal, which is backed by a majority of the Democratic-led Senate. Even if the withdrawal measure were passed, it likely would face a veto by President Bush.
The group VoteVets.org called in Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to spend the night in the Senate gallery. MoveOn.org organized “counter-filibusters,” in which protesters stood outside Senate offices and other public places to read firsthand accounts from Iraq War veterans and military families. Meanwhile, antiwar demonstrators and war vets have been holding a candlelight vigil outside the Senate as the marathon debate goes on.
On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Republicans not to filibuster and to bring the troops home.
SEN. HARRY REID: I’m speaking today for the American people. Sixty-seven percent of the American people think the surge has been a failure. Democrats, not even a majority of Republicans favor the surge. Of course, a significant majority of Independents recognize that the surge has not been good. We are speaking for the American people on this bipartisan amendment. We have no choice, as I’ve indicated earlier, to stay in session. The Republicans have a right to talk. Let them talk. It’s their filibuster. But we’ll continue to speak in spite of that. When they finish their filibuster, we’ll still be speaking, to continue speaking out on behalf of our troops and all Americans, all Americans, Democrats, the majority of the Republicans and the Independents, to continue requesting consent for an up-or-down vote on our amendment to end this war, Mr. President.
AMY GOODMAN: Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. On the other side of the aisle, Arizona senator and Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said the current withdrawal legislation will not pass.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: But as far as Anbar province is concerned, as far as some parts of Baghdad are concerned, yes, there is some progress, which has been purchased at great and tragic cost, the sacrifice of young Americans’ lives. And I would like to again assure my friend of many, many years from Nevada. I understand his frustr — Nevada. I almost pronounced it wrong there, from Nevada, that — that the frustration that he voices is shared by many Americans. And the lack of — our failure and our employment of a failed strategy for more than three years is well articulated. But I also would plead with my colleagues to at least know that we’re not going to stop this now. We’re not going to stop it now. Even if the majority leader got the 60 votes and got this included in the bill in some way, the president of the United States would veto it. We don’t want that to happen. We don’t want that to happen. We know that in September, whether I happen to like it or not — I’d like to personally give it more time than September. We know that in September, this whole issue is going to come to a head. Here we are in the middle of July. Can’t we sit down and work out the amendments?
AMY GOODMAN: The vote to bring the debate to an end and move to a final ballot is expected to take place at around noon today.