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Friday, February 09, 2007

Lack of Iraq Debate Could Shut Down US Senate

Republicans tell Senate to debate war or be frozen


WASHINGTON - A band of Republican senators, including Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, threatened Wednesday to shut down the Senate until it debates a resolution disagreeing with President Bush's troop surge for Iraq.

Seven GOP senators wrote the chamber's leaders of both parties, calling on them to work out a deal to resurrect the resolution that Republican senators stalled Monday with a filibuster and possibly other resolutions.

"The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time," the letter said. "It urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate and a full debate."

Hagel, who helped draft the letter, said in an interview that his group was frustrated that Senate leaders haven't been able to resolve a dispute over which resolutions to consider.

"If anyone thinks that we're going to go away or this issue is going to go away, that just isn't going to happen," Hagel said.

"This is just going to get worse and worse, and you're going to see demonstrations of more than a million people before this is over this year. We're dividing our country in a very dangerous way, and the most irresponsible thing Congress can do is walk away from this."

The letter's signers include Hagel and John Warner, R-Va., who are leading sponsors of the resolution that seeks to rebuke Bush's troop increase. Monday, however, Hagel and Warner joined nearly all other Republicans in filibustering that resolution, leading to the current stalemate.

In doing so, they backed a GOP complaint that the Democratic majority was using arcane rules to try to block consideration of other war-related resolutions.

Since then, the Senate has been in a holding pattern.

The dispute boils down to this: Most Democrats want to vote on the anti-surge resolution. Most Republicans also want to vote on a resolution by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would declare support for U.S. forces in the field and oppose any effort by Congress to curb funding for troops deployed.

The other senators who signed the Hagel letter are Norm Coleman of Minnesota, George Voinovich of Ohio, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine.

Recognizing that strong opinions are held on both sides of the Iraq question, given the overall 06 election results, the Republicans in Washington are playing with fire if they don't allow for a discussion. 2008 won't be pretty.