WASHINGTON – Close to 300 anti-war activists participated in the MoveOn.org-sponsored candlelight vigil Tuesday night to hear leading congressional Democrats blast Senate Republicans for holding up a vote on troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., stood on stage surrounded by close to 75 congressional colleagues demanding that the Senate GOP allow the body to have an up-or-down vote on a measure which would require troop withdrawal from Iraq within 120 days of adoption. The goal would be to of have most troops out of Iraq by spring 2008.
Levin, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and co-author of the measure in question, roused the crowd into chanting, "Let 'em vote, let 'em vote, let 'em vote." Levin proclaimed that the "great drama" taking place on the Senate floor was not merely about parliamentary procedure.
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"The people who are filibustering want to stop us from voting on Levin-Reed — that's what this is all about," he cried. "This is not whether or not we're going to vote, but whether or not we're going to change course in Iraq."
Harry Reid alluded to the glowing candles held by members of the crowd, saying that they "shine a real bright light on the Republicans in Congress who continue to stand in the way of progress."
"You'll keep the pressure on them, we'll keep the pressure on them and together you and we will deliver the new direction that our troops and all Americans demand and deserve," he said.
Throughout her remarks at this "candlelight call to action," Pelosi competed for attention over the cries from 10-20 vocal Iraq war protesters screaming "put impeachment on the table."
"The reason it's impossible to put legislation on the, on [the] president's desk over and over and over again … is because over and over and over again the Republicans in the Senate say 'no' to the American people," a largely unfazed Pelosi told the crowd.
The handful of protesters then booed her and demanded Pelosi "stop going along with it."
Back in the well of the Senate, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed "right-wing extremists" for failing to focus on the War on Terror while U.S. troops suffered in Iraq.
"Usama bin Laden remains alive and well," Sanders said. "We have to show this White House that this country belongs to all of us and not just big-monied interests. … This is not just about ending the war; it's about bringing democracy back to our country."
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