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Dems to Take Up Iraq Debate in Senate Today
Republicans Attempting to Block Vote on Warner-Levin Resolution
02/05/2007 1:20 PM ET
Capitol Hill watchers are eagerly anticipating the expected drama that will begin in a couple of hours as the Senate takes up the issue of pending Iraq resolutions.

The show is scheduled to begin sometime after 2, and will be broadcast live on C-SPAN 2 .

The first order of business will possibly include an attempt to fillibuster, led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

McConnell said Friday that Republicans would vote against bringing the Warner-Levin resolution to the floor unless Majority Leader Harry Reid also allowed for votes on other more Bush-friendly bills--including the McCain resolution that would voice support for the surge plan and establish 11 benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet.

It would take sixty votes to knock down McConnell's attempt to block debate on the Warner-Levin resolution. McConnell has claimed that he will have the support of all 49 Republican senators, including even Senator Warner, so the threat of fillibuster is real.

The Dems can count on all their party members falling in line; even Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold--who both oppose the Warner-Levin resolution--have said they would vote to overcome any Republican procedural moves attempting to block a vote on the measure. With Sen. Tim Johnson still on medical leave, that leaves Harry Reid in need of at least ten Republican defectors.

In most cases, invoking the spectre of the dreaded fillibuster is enough to force difficult compromises to appease political opponents, and that's the kind of negotiating that has been frantically going on outside the media's eye this weekend.

Democratic leadership desperately wants to avoid allowing McCain's offering to compete with the Warner-Levin measure, since that would put the debate squarely in the realm of pro-surge/anti-surge. It's difficult to argue with the benchmarks McCain has outlined, but voting for his benchmarks would require voicing support for Bush's plan.

There are a number of ways things might shake out this afternoon, but these are the most likely.

If the Democratic leadership manages to garner enough votes to overcome McConnell's attempted fillibuster, it should be expected that the text of the Warner-Levin resolution will be altered to reflect whatever dealmaking had to occur in order to secure certain Republican's cooperation. Most likely change would be to further water down the language voicing opposition to the proposed surge.

If the Dems fail to secure 60 votes, they could table the entire debate until they can reach a compromise that would allow them to move forward.

McCain could conceivably remove the pro-surge language from his proposal, in which case Reid would happily let it proceed to the Senate floor. However, if McCain does not budge on that issue, and the Dems feel pressured to push forward with their agenda immediately, it should be expected that Reid would bring more items to the floor than McConnell is demanding.

Most likely another Democratic senator would introduce a binding resolution that echoes McCain's benchmarks without articulating support for Bush's plan.

Also, as Diane Feinstein warned on CNN's Late Edition this weekend, Republican "obstructionism" could lead to the introduction of more aggressive Democratic measures against the war.

Full text of Warner's proposed resolution "expressing the sense of Congress" is available here. Warner_LevinRes.pdf


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