Senate Votes to Begin Iraq Withdrawl Debate

Washington, DC (AP) -- Breaking a parliamentary roadblock, the Senate voted Wednesday to begin its first formal debate on the Iraq war since Democrats took control of Congress in January.

The 89-9 vote paved the way for consideration of a Democratic measure that calls for - but does not require - President Bush to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008. The vote came after many Republicans abandoned the tactic they had used twice earlier this year to prevent the Senate from considering legislation aimed at forcing an end to the war.

Despite the vote, most Republicans opposed the Democratic bill and it was expected to eventually fall short of the 60 votes it will need to pass. Even so, the debate would give Democrats a chance to put Republicans on record as opposing a timetable on the war at a time when most American voters oppose.

"This is the message the American people delivered to Congress on Nov. 7, 2006, and this is the message we must send to President Bush," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to an election day in which Democrats captured both chambers.

The Senate breakthrough came after Republicans abandoned demands for assurances that a debate on the war include consideration of various GOP proposals, including a resolution vowing to protect funding for troops. Fearful such a measure would undercut the anti-war message Democrats wanted, Senate Democrats had refused.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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