No elected official wants to go on record not supporting the troops during a time of war and so the $492 billion defense authorization bill is more than likely to pass the Senate.
But some Democrats are also using debate on the bill as a means to attack the Bush administration.
"150,000 American troops are bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq because the Bush administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence to justify a war that America never should have fought," Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said Thursday.
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The White House was quick to respond to that remark, one of many flowing from Democratic ranks during the debate.
"Seventy-seven senators from both sides of the aisle, the previous administration and foreign governments all believed, based on the same intelligence, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an enormous threat," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.
Democrats have also used the Senate debate to offer up a three-point plan that, among other things, makes 2006 a year of "significant transition" leading to a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Democrats say they also believe the United States should no longer make long-term promises to the Iraqi people.
"An open-ended declaration to stay 'as long as it takes' lets Iraqi factions maneuver for their own political advantage by making us stay as long as they want," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Thursday.
That opinion is not shared by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who gave a speech on Iraq in Washington Thursday that sounded a lot like the administration's argument.
"When America toppled Saddam, we incurred a moral duty not to abandon the people there to terrorists and killers. If we withdraw prematurely, risking all-out civil war, we will have done precisely that," he told the American Enterprise Institute.
But McCain disagrees with much of the current Iraq strategy — he wants more troops instead of fewer — and proposes a course of action in Iraq that would be neither quick or easy.
"It will take more time, more commitment and more support and more brave Americans will lose their lives in the service of this great cause," he said.
With so many different ideas and so much criticism about how the war should be carried out, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wondered aloud how it must look to America's enemies.
"It's undermining our nation's position in the world, encouraging the enemy to falsely believe that this nation is divided and leading the enemy to believe we may quit if they just kill a few more soldiers and Marines," he said.
The defense bill also includes a provision to strip security clearances from any federal official, including administration staff, congressional members and their aides, who knowingly leak classified info.
It also provides $50 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But overall, the defense authorization is a roadmap for slower defense growth in the coming years.
Still at question is how a provision barring detainee abuse will be handled. Passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, the White House has promised a veto if it survives in the final bill.
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