WASHINGTON – Democrats are unable to pass legislation that would challenge President Bush on the Iraq war, despite public opinion polls that show the war remains deeply unpopular with voters.
Failing to muster the support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the war now belonged to Republicans and vowed they would have to go on record again and again as siding with President Bush. He scheduled a vote Friday on legislation by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would order combat troops home in nine months.
"Back home they assert their independence, but in Washington they walk in lockstep with the president and continue to support his failed policies," said Reid, D-Nev.
Friday's vote caps off a week of disappointing roll calls for the Democrats, who had hoped that more Republicans would have jumped on board by now.
Recent polls show that American views of the war largely have not changed since Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, testified last week.
A poll released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Americans still favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. And despite slight improvements in the public's view of military progress, more said the U.S. will likely fail in Iraq than succeed by 47 percent to 42 percent, about the same margin as in July.
On Wednesday, the Senate blocked legislation by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would have guaranteed troops more time at home; it fell by a 56-44 vote with 60 votes needed to advance. On Thursday, the Senate blocked legislation sponsored by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have cut off funding for combat in June 2008. That measure failed by a 70-28 vote, 32 votes short of 60.
Levin's bill too was expected to fall short of the 60 votes required, with Republicans saying they still oppose setting a firm deadline on the war.
"If we leave, we will be back — in Iraq and elsewhere — in many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
On Thursday, Republicans successfully pushed through a resolution condemning an advertisement by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org. Displayed in The New York Times, the ad taunted Petraeus as "General Betray Us."
The resolution, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, passed by a 72-25 vote.
House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House should consider a similar measure. But when asked if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would allow it, spokesman Nadeam Elshami said in an e-mail: "The House is going to devote its full attention to providing health care to children, promoting energy independence to improve America's security, reducing global warming, and responsibly redeploying U.S. forces now in Iraq.
"These are the priorities of the American people," he said.