What: All Issues : War & Peace : War with Iraq : National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) amendment to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq by April 2008/Motion to instruct the Sergeant-at-Arms to request the presence of absent Senators (2007 senate Roll Call 249)
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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) amendment to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq by April 2008/Motion to instruct the Sergeant-at-Arms to request the presence of absent Senators
senate Roll Call 249     Jul 17, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This was the first of three votes on whether to instruct the Sergeant-at-Arms to request the presence of absent Senators. It came during an all-night debate on an amendment to the 2008 Defense Department authorization bill that would have required a redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq by the end of April 2008.

The Sergeant-at-Arms is the chief law enforcement officer in the Senate. An appointee of the Majority Leader, he is responsible for compelling the presence of absent Senators during a quorum call. During routine quorum calls, this role doesn't come into play, but if a Senator or group of Senators are actively avoiding the chamber in order to prevent the Senate from having a sufficient number of lawmakers to conduct business, the Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with rounding them up, against their wills, if necessary.

In this case, the Senate was engaged in an all-night debate on whether to bring combat troops out of Iraq, with certain exceptions, beginning within 120 days of enactment of the legislation. By April 2008, all U.S. combat forces would have to be out of that country, with the exception of troops protecting U.S. personnel, training Iraqi security forces or conducting counterterrorism operations. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) proposed the measure as an amendment to annual legislation that authorizes funding for the Defense Department.

"America is awake," said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "They understand very clearly we have a situation where we have a president that will be in office only another 17 months, and they want the war to end before he leaves office. They want to change the course in Iraq which has caused the deaths of almost 3,700 Americans, the wounding of tens of thousands of Americans, cost us over half a trillion dollars."

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) responded: "Democrats are already declaring it a failure. This type of defeatist strategy is irrational and unfair."

Many Republicans maintained that the Democrat's move would create a civil war, to which Reid responded that Iraq was already in the midst of an "intractable" internal conflict that the presence of U.S. troops was only fueling.

Before Reid motioned to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to request the presence of absent lawmakers there were only 26 Senators in the chamber. His motion would have required the attendance of absent lawmakers, but more Republicans showed up to vote against it than Democrats did to vote for it, and it failed on a completely party-line vote of 44 to 47. (Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut voted with the Democrats and Republicans, respectively.) Thus, the Senate rejected a motion to compel the attendance of absent lawmakers, and the all-night debate on an amendment to a Defense authorization bill that would have required a redeployment of troops from Iraq by April 2008 continued without the Democrats being able to force the resolution to a vote.

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