Senate Rejects Amendment to Require More Military Down Time Before Next Deployment

The Senate rejected an amendment on Wednesday that would have required equal amounts of time for combat and rest for any military members deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan

As both houses of Congress take up the war spending debate, the Senate vote on the amendment sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was the first in the defense authorization bill, being crafted in the midst of growing displeasure in Congress over the Iraq war.

The amendment failed on 56-41 vote, not garnering the 60 votes needed to break a would-be filibuster.

The majority vote, however, did show that a growing number of Republicans are willing to vote on issues that previously have been strictly Democratic priorities. Republican Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John Warner of Virginia voted in favor of the amendment.

The House also is taking up the war debate, with a vote scheduled as early as Thursday on a measure similar to one in the Senate. A similar proposal to Webb's has been put forth in the House by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a fiery Vietnam veteran and one of the earliest vocal advocate of troop withdrawals.

"At every turn, the administration's benchmarks for their Iraqi strategy have failed to meet their own measure of success. And the American people have been asked to pay for this failure," Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said Wednesday on the House floor.

The Senate is expected next week to vote on a Democratic measure — with some Republican backing — that would begin troop withdrawal within 120 days, and bring all combat troops out of Iraq by April 2008. A proposal being floated would leave at most 10,000 troops in Iraq to deal with counter-terrorism against Al Qaeda.

Should that measure pass, it is not expected to survive a presidential veto.

The White House is doing its best to try to hold off any moves on Iraq by Congress until September, but several Republican senators meeting with President Bush's top security adviser said they did not want Bush to wait until then.

The meeting that lawmakers had with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley came as GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel announced they would back the legislation proposed by Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed ordering combat to end next spring.

Republican support for the war has steadily eroded in recent weeks as the White House prepares an interim progress report that finds the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has made narrow progress in meeting major targets of reform.

Of the GOP lawmakers who say the U.S. should reduce its military role in Iraq, nearly all are up for re-election in 2008.

"I'm hopeful they (the White House) change their minds," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

Domenici and at least five other Republicans support a bill by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that would adopt as U.S. policy the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report.

The bipartisan panel, led by Republican James A. Baker III and Democrat Lee Hamilton, said the U.S. should hand off the combat mission to the Iraqis, bolster diplomatic efforts in the region and pave the way for a drawdown of troops by spring 2008.

Domenici, who is expected to face voters next year, said he and other co-sponsors told Hadley the president shouldn't wait until September to adopt the bipartisan policy.

"The only difference of opinion at the moment is, the president wants to deal with the Baker-Hamilton recommendations in September," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of the first GOP co-sponsors.

"I think he should do that today because it develops a long-term strategy for what happens in the surge," added Alexander, who also is up for re-election. "It would put him and Congress on the same path, which is what we definitely need."

Members said Hadley did not indicate the White House would switch gears. Bush this week said he will not reconsider the military strategy in Iraq until Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander there, delivers his progress report in September.

"He was not in a position to do anything other than say 'I hear you,' " Domenici said of Hadley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.