The Senate bill differs slightly from the House bill that passed on Friday, notably in the fact that the deadline for final withdrawal — March 31, 2008 versus August 31, 2008 — is a goal, not an absolute requirement. The GOP killed it 11 days ago, 50-48, but Reid’s going to try again with extra benchmarks built into this one in hopes of getting Ben Nelson and Mark Prior, the two Democrats who voted no last time, to come around. Nelson says he’ll vote yes this time; Pryor’s still wavering. His vote would make it 50-49, which would decide the issue (Tim Johnson is the lone absentee). To filibuster or not to filibuster?

Not this time, says Mitch McConnell.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he will try to block a Democratic effort to force troop withdrawal but won’t stand in the way of the Iraq spending bill that would contain it because he knows President Bush would veto the package.

“Our goal is to pass it quickly,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “Our troops need the money.”

Unable to override Bush’s veto, Democrats would have to redraft the bill without a “surrender deadline,” he said…

The Senate will vote as early as Tuesday on a Republican amendment to strip the withdrawal language from the bill.

Does the logic here fly, though? The war funds are set to run out next month; the Democrats know they’re on the clock. If McConnell’s looking to kill it quickly and send Reid and Pelosi back to the drawing board for a clean bill, a filibuster should be as good as a veto. Better, in fact, since there’ll be no delay involved in sending it to the White House. What this is really about, presumably, is the GOP not wanting to advertise its opposition to withdrawal any more than it already has, so they’re going to let it sail through and make Bush administer the coup de grace this time.

Hey — that’s what lame ducks are for.

FYI, the timetable appears to be the sticking point for Pryor. If he actually has the stones to vote no and deny the Dems the political windfall of a Bush veto, we might have to have Mark Pryor Day here at Hot Air.

Update: No wonder Mac doesn’t want his fingerprints on the Senate bill.