Salazar’s Iraq pullout proposal stalled until at least September
WASHINGTON – Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar’s hopes of making the Iraq Study Group recommendations the U.S. strategy in Iraq were dashed Wednesday morning when Democrats abruptly stopped work on a war-spending bill.Senators had waged an all-night debate on an amendment to the war bill that would have required President Bush to start bringing home troops from Iraq within 120 days.But by morning, Democrats failed to muster enough votes to end a filibuster. Although Salazar’s measure and other proposed amendments to the bill had not yet been considered, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., suspended all work on the bill rather than continue on.The Senate likely won’t take up the issue again until September.”It was a disappointment that we couldn’t move forward,” Salazar told reporters in a conference call afterward. “There will be another day when we revisit Iraq. Hopefully (then) we will be able to chart a new course in Iraq.”Salazar, a Democrat, and Colorado’s Republican Sen. Wayne Allard split their votes on a question of whether to end debate on the troop-withdrawal amendment.Allard joined all but four Republicans in voting against it.Allard called the overnight debate “nothing more than a circus” and criticized the Democrats for scuttling the defense bill, which also includes a pay raise for the troops, revised regulations for detaining suspects in the war on terror and an increase in the size of the Army and Marines.Like many other Republicans, Allard said he wants to wait for a September report from Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus on Bush’s recent troop buildup.”We just need to give them an opportunity to get their job done,” Allard said. “We just changed the plan a few months ago.”Salazar has not said whether he would have supported the troop-withdrawal amendment sponsored by Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.Instead, Salazar said he voted with his party to end the filibuster so the Senate could continue debate on the bill.His amendment had picked up support from more than a dozen moderates in both parties, including co-sponsor Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., as an alternative to pulling troops and staying the course.Colorado Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, had introduced a companion bill in the House. It’s unclear whether Udall’s bill could make it to the Senate.The Iraq Study Group is a bipartisan group of political and policy experts that in December recommended a series of benchmarks Iraqis would have to meet for continued U.S. support. If all the steps were followed, the panel said, most troops could begin leaving by next spring.Unlike other Democratic proposals, Salazar’s did not set a firm date to pull troops from Iraq.Salazar said the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations were the most “coherent” and “apolitical” alternative to Bush’s current strategy.”I have always thought we needed to work together to provide a united move forward,” he said.But Reid, an ardent supporter of pulling troops from Iraq, made no secret that he thought Salazar’s proposal was too weak.By pulling the bill from the Senate floor, Reid ensured that Salazar’s amendment wouldn’t get a vote, for now.