With thanks to Noam Askew for the heads up, this was the first quasi-withdrawal proposal on the agenda and thus a possible bellwether. It was a motion for cloture so 60 votes were needed (as we all know by now); the roll’s not up yet, but given that Lieberman always sides with the hawks on Iraq legislation it means there are at least seven Republican defections. One of them is probably Olympia Snowe, who said today she’ll join Gordon Smith as the second Republican to back the Reed-Levin cut-and-jog plan. That would require withdrawal to start within 120 days and end by April, which as NZ Bear notes in commenting on Ike Skelton’s similar proposal, means the drawdown would begin less than five months after full implementation of the surge.
Meanwhile, fun on the Senate floor:
“I’ve seen this movie before from the liberal left in America, who share no responsibility for what happened in Cambodia when we said no,” said McCain, whose campaign has lost support partly because of his advocacy of the war. He singled out Mike Gravel, a Vietnam War-era senator from Alaska who strongly opposed that mission and is waging a long-shot antiwar candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Biden jumped in. “Give me a break! Quoting Gravel as the voice of the left?” he exclaimed. “This is a man who, God love him, nominated himself for vice president. I mean, come on!”
Vice President Cheney attended a closed-door Republican luncheon to appeal for party unity in what Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) called “a vigorous debate.” Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) said he took Cheney’s side, telling his colleagues: “If we leave prematurely, it would be absolute anarchy. We’d be turning over to al-Qaeda one of the largest oil-producing states in the world.”
Well, no, actually, we’d be turning it over to Iran: most of the oil is in eastern and southern Iraq, not in AQ’s Sunni stomping grounds.
I’ll have the roll and a few updates here soon. It’s worth reading that WaPo piece while you wait as it shows how similar the Democratic proposals are to the ones being backed by moderate Republicans like Susan Collins. They’re all variations of Baker-Hamilton; the difference is that the Dems actually want to cap the number of troops and set dates for withdrawal whereas Collins wants simply to redefine the mission until it’s so limited as to make tens of thousands of troops superfluous and force a withdrawal that way. Reminds me of the “yes on cloture, no on the actual bill” two-step we saw during the shamnesty fight. She’s looking to accomplish the same thing as her ostensible opponents, she just doesn’t have the stones to be as forthright as they are about what she’s doing.
Update: Bush says he’ll veto anything with a timetable. Does that mean Collins’s amendment would be okay? He might be willing to settle for that since it leaves him with the weasel option of maintaining troop levels but reassigning them within the parameters of the newly defined mission. That would risk angering Congress to the point where they might be willing to cut off funds, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
Update: Still waiting for the roll. Have a look at the results of the Gallup poll on declining support for the war. It’s an imperfect comparison but more Americans now say it was wrong to send troops to Iraq than said it was wrong to send troops to Vietnam 35 years ago. Seventy percent support the Reed-Levin proposal to have most troops out by April. The GOP is doing a noble thing here by backing Petraeus but we really might reap the whirlwind next November, especially if there’s some sort of mega-attack between now and September. The military’s expecting it, in fact. Still, a majority — including a majority of independents — would give Petraeus until September.
Update: Something else to read — “Go Deep or Get Out,” by Stephen Biddle, which argues that Baker-Hamilton is the worst possible plan for U.S. troops since it exposes them to added danger without doing anything to help secure the country. Either commit to a substantial troop presence or withdraw, he says. Given the poll results, that means the latter.
Update: Here are the seven switchers, all of them now in favor of a de facto slow bleed. It was a party line vote otherwise.
Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats, all of whom have criticized Bush’s war policy to varying degrees in recent weeks. They include Hagel, Snowe, and Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Gordon Smith (Ore.), John Sununu (N.H.) and John Warner (Va.). With the exception of Snowe, all the Republicans who voted aye are up for re-election in 2008.
Killer polls helped kill shamnesty and now they may kill the surge. Meanwhile, to no one’s great surprise, Hagel says he’s joining Snowe and Smith in backing Reed-Levin.
Update: Senate Republicans aren’t the only ones inching away from the surge. Gulp.