HR 1591 (Fiscal 2007 supplemental appropriations bill). Cochran of Mississippi amendment on withdrawing troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 116 Mar 27, 2007
This vote was on an amendment by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., that would have deleted a directive in the underlying bill to remove troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The debate over whether or not to remove the language mirrored the nationwide debate over what to do about American military involvement in Iraq.
Many Democrats have pushed for setting timetables for bringing troops home, arguing that the military has sacrificed enough, and that it is time for Iraqis to begin policing their own country. On the other hand, many Republicans counter that to set a date for withdrawing troops would be to invite chaos in the region as terrorists bide their time waiting for the military's withdrawal date. It is a battle with mostly dug in positions and much at stake -- indeed, the White House threatened a veto if the bill was sent to President Bush with the troop withdrawal timetable intact.
The amendment was offered to the fiscal 2007 supplemental appropriations bill. These types of bills are funding measures that deal with emergencies or unforeseen needs that come up after Congress has already outlined its spending priorities for the year. The underlying bill would dole out $124.2 billion in additional funding, over and above what Congress had already enacted earlier in the year, to cover continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also contains some domestic initiatives, such as emergency funding for hurricane recovery.
Because these bills are generally seen as must-pass pieces of legislation, they often attract other provisions that are not directly related to the bill's main purpose of providing funding. Such was the case with this bill, which contained a minimum wage hike as well as language calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008 (language this amendment sought to strike).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said setting a withdrawal date is "akin to sending a memo to our enemies to rest, refit, and replan until the day we leave. It is a memo to our friends, too, telling them we plan to walk away and leave them on their own, regardless of what we leave behind. We know as well as they do that we can expect the following: a Sunni minority exposed to the whims of the Shia majority, ethnic cleansing, and regional instability the consequences of which are painful to contemplate but easy to predict."
John Thune, R-S.D., said removing troops is just "wrong," in part because it sets a precedent about the extent to which Congress has the power to make wartime decisions, as opposed to the president as commander-in-chief.
"I ask my colleagues to stop and think about the long-term effects the redeployment language is going to have. This language will do more than redeploy troops. It will set a precedent that Congress may interject itself into the military chain of command. This is not a slippery slope, it is a straight drop to the bottom. War requires one Commander in Chief. Every civilization, from Greece to the British Empire, has understood this basic premise, as did our founders," Thune said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said defeating the amendment would send a strong message in the face of a presidential veto threat.
"The choice tonight is very clear. It is as clear as it is important. It is a choice between staying the course in Iraq and changing the course in that faraway land. With their votes, Senators tonight can send a message to the President that it is time to come with us, to help find a new way and end this intractable civil war or Senators can allow this course to continue, allow President Bush to commit more U.S. troops in this open-ended Iraqi civil war," Reid said.
The amendment was rejected on a vote of 48-50. All but one Democrat voted against the amendment ( (Mark Pryor of Arkansas). All but two Republicans voted for it (Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon), as did one Independent (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut). Thus the bill went forward with the requirement that troops be withdrawn from Iraq by March 31, 2008.
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