What: All Issues : War & Peace : National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) amendment to provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq/On adoption of the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 346)
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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) amendment to provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq/On adoption of the amendment
senate Roll Call 346     Sep 21, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on a measure to beginning withdrawing U.S. armed forces from Iraq by the end of 2007. The language was proposed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) as an amendment to broad legislation setting policy for the Defense Department for fiscal 2008.

Levin and Reed believed that it was time for a change of mission in Iraq. They maintained that the U.S. lacked sufficient forces to maintain the current force level, and that the "fundamental dynamic" in Iraq is a political one that must be resolved by Iraqis.

"What we have gained on the ground has been tactical momentum," Reed said. "Any time you insert the greatest Army and Marine Corps and Air Force and Navy in the world into a situation, you are going to make progress - and we have. But the real question there is, Will that progress last when we inevitably begin to draw our forces down, as General Petraeus has announced? I think most people would suggest probably not."

That reality, Reed and Levin maintained, meant that the United States had to "change course" in Iraq, withdrawing most combat troops and focusing on counterterrorism and training of Iraqi troops.

"We have to change the dynamic in Iraq, and that dynamic can only be changed when those Iraqi leaders realize the open-ended commitment is over," Levin said, adding that President Bush has asked for Americans' patience a dozen times, and it was time for a change in direction.

"We are not going to withdraw precipitously, we are not going to totally withdraw, we have interests there that require us to keep some troops there," Levin added. "But we have the need to change that mission."

Republicans said the Levin-Reed amendment was tantamount to giving the "enemy" the country's strategic plans and that a timetable for withdrawal only served those who seek to destabilize the region.

"If we pass something now that tells them, in a period of time you can expect us to leave, and this is what we are going to do, we are giving them our playbook," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said. "If you look and see what some of our top leaders have said about that, General [David H.] Petraeus said: We cannot leave without jeopardying the gains we have started to achieve."

In the end, the vote was tied, 47 to 47, meaning the motion was defeated. Vice President Dick Cheney was not called in to cast the tie-breaking vote because a three-fifths majority was required for passage by a previous agreement between the Democrat leadership and Republican leadership. Three Republicans broke with their party to vote for the amendment; they were Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Three Democrats broke with their party to vote against it; they were Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.). Thus, on a mostly party-line vote, the Senate rejected an amendment to legislation setting defense policy for fiscal 2008 that would have begun a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2007 and refocused the remaining troops on counterterrorism operations, and the bill went forward without the timetable.

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