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Seven GOP senators push for vote on troop buildup

They suggest they will delay Senate business until a ballot is taken on Warner's measure that opposes the Bush plan.

February 08, 2007|Noam N. Levey | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Seven Republican lawmakers threatened Wednesday to tie up Senate business until a resolution opposing President Bush's planned troop buildup gets a vote, saying they will try to attach the measure to future legislation.

"The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time. It urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate," said Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who sponsored the measure criticizing the White House plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Warner and six other GOP senators sent a letter to Senate leaders of both parties Wednesday evening. Among the signatories was Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), who had not previously expressed support for the Warner measure.

The procedural gambit does not guarantee the Senate will vote any time soon on Bush's plan to send more troops into Baghdad to control sectarian violence there. But it may further complicate Senate debate on the war, just as Senate Democratic leaders seemed prepared to let the Democratic majority in the House take up the legislative challenge to the White House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her lieutenants have said they plan to consider a resolution like Warner's as early as Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been pushing for a vote this week on the Warner resolution.

But Senate Republicans -- including Warner -- protested Monday that they were not allowed to bring up alternative resolutions and successfully denied Reid the 60 votes he needed to formally bring up the measure.

The GOP demanded votes on two alternative measures. One, by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), expresses support for the mission but lists benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet to demonstrate its commitment. The other, by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), opposes any cutoff of funds for troops in the field.

After three days of rhetorical brawling in which Democrats portrayed Republicans as obstacles to a war debate, Reid said Wednesday that Democrats were no longer going to seek a vote on the Warner measure, which expresses the sense that the Senate "disagrees" with the buildup.

"I'm terribly disappointed," Reid said on the floor of the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) countered with expressions of his own distress.

"I'm disappointed, as other members of my party in the Senate are disappointed, we're not having the Iraq debate this week," he said.

If Warner follows through with his threat, the debate may soon be resurrected. He did not indicate when he planned to try to revive his measure.

Such an action would almost certainly be accompanied by another from McConnell and other White House allies to revive the Gregg measure.

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noam.levey@latimes.com

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