What: All Issues : War & Peace : War with Iraq : HR 1495. (Water Resources Development Act reauthorization) Motion to limit debate on an amendment by Warner of Virginia establishing benchmarks for progress in Iraq/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 168)
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HR 1495. (Water Resources Development Act reauthorization) Motion to limit debate on an amendment by Warner of Virginia establishing benchmarks for progress in Iraq/On the motion
senate Roll Call 168     May 16, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

The amendment offered by John Warner, R-Va., would direct President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq if the Iraqi government passed a resolution calling for their removal. It also would withhold foreign aid unless Bush certified that the Iraqi government was making progress on 18 benchmarks the amendment outlines (such as reducing sectarian violence). The amendment would allow the second requirement to be waived if Bush could justify to Congress in writing why it should be waived.

Democrats have maintained that American troops have fulfilled their duties and that to remain longer in Iraq would mean more lives lost for little gain. They also say that in pushing for withdrawing troops from Iraq, they are honoring a mandate given to them by the American people during the last election, when Democrats took both the House and Senate from an entrenched Republican majority. Republicans, on the other hand, have argued that this would result in a precipitous withdrawal of troops that would create a vacuum in Iraq that would be filled by terrorist organizations. They say this would destabilize the entire Middle East and put America at risk for more terrorist attacks on its soil.

This vote occurred on an attempt to bring debate on an amendment to a close (known as a "cloture motion" in the Senate). If the Senate votes to "invoke cloture" – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation or amendment in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious bills or amendments where the leadership is concerned that the legislation could be held up indefinitely by a handful of unhappy politicians.

The amendment was offered to an unrelated bill that would authorize billions of dollars in water infrastructure projects. The debate over whether or not to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq took up a significant portion of the Senate's time on this unrelated measure, in part necessitating the cloture vote.

"Taken together, I think it is very important that our strategy in Iraq be put in a position where it reflects in many respects the degree of success in meeting these benchmarks and, if these benchmarks are not met, then such changes as our president desires to make from his strategy as announced on January 10 of this year," Warner said. "Then we go on to require the President of the United States to report on how this sovereign Government of Iraq is or is not achieving progress toward accomplishing the aforementioned benchmarks, and shall advise the Congress on how that assessment requires or does not require changes to the strategy announced on January 10, 2007."

Warner's amendment was introduced as a counterpoint to another amendment that had been introduced by Russell Feingold, D-Wis. Feingold's amendment would require Bush to start withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days of the bill's enactment, with the redeployment to be completed by March 31, 2008.

Feingold criticized Warner's amendment, saying Congress doesn't need reports "to tell us that the President's policy isn't working. And we don't need reports to show us that our continued military presence in Iraq is a mistake, one that the America people overwhelmingly oppose. It is long past time for benchmarks, let alone benchmarks that aren't tied to meaningful consequences."

The Senate rejected the motion to invoke cloture and limit debate on Warner's amendment by a vote of 52-44. Though more voted yes than no, in this case 60 votes were needed for the motion to carry (this number represents three-fifths of the Senate's membership, a significant number of votes, and the same amount required to end a filibuster). Most Republicans voted to limit debate on the amendment, though three did not (Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jon Kyl of Arizona, and David Vitter of Louisiana). Similarly, most Democrats voted against limiting debate on the amendment, though seven did not. Thus, cloture was not invoked on the amendment that would establish benchmarks for progress in Iraq, and debate continued (however, the amendment was eventually withdrawn, as was Feingold's).

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