Monday, February 05, 2007

War resolutions get sidetracked

An effort to pass a Senate resolution opposing the troop surge in Iraq was blocked by Republicans, who want the debate to include a couple of alternative proposals.

The vote was 49-47 to proceed with debate, short of the 60 votes required.

The blocked bill is Continuing Resolution 7, sponsored by John Warner. One alternative, sponsored by Judd Gregg, is essentially some of the language of the Warner bill pulled out to stand on its own -- a rather direct method of watering down the resolution. The other alternative, sponsored by McCain and Lieberman, supports the president's plan.

The slim margin of the vote could mean the resolutions are sidetracked forever. Republicans insist they're not trying to avoid debate on the topic -- we shall see. If the resolutions never make it to the floor, that's a bad sign. But the Senate rules are so byzantine that it could be the Democrats who sidetrack it rather than risk letting the Gregg proposal pass, for instance.

Cynically speaking, letting the resolutions die might serve several purposes in Congress -- notably, not putting anybody on record as supporting or opposing them. Republicans will get credit for killing them; Democrats will get credit for trying. Nobody's hands get dirty.

On the other hand, both Dems and moderate Republicans seem genuinely serious about the resolutions, and it would be seen as weak for them to back off now. The sponsors, in particular, are tied to their respective resolutions, so they have little incentive to back off. But the full Senate could have other ideas.

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