What: All Issues National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) amendment to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq by April 2008/Motion to invoke cloture and bring to a vote (2007 senate Roll Call 252)
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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1585), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) amendment to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq by April 2008/Motion to invoke cloture and bring to a vote
senate Roll Call 252     Jul 18, 2007
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This was a key vote on an amendment to the fiscal 2008 Defense Department authorization bill that would have required a drawdown of U.S. ground forces from Iraq by April 2008. Democrats had kept the chamber in session all night in order to draw press attention to what they deemed was Republican obstructionism in brining the measure to a vote.

Democrats had the fifty votes necessary to pass the measure by a simple majority, but Republicans used a procedural hurdle to require the Democrats to obtain a 60-vote supermajority. This vote was on whether the Senate would take up the amendment, and represented the closest thing to a vote on setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq that Republicans would allow.

Cloture is the only procedure in the Senate that restricts the amount of time a bill may be considered. Under Senate rules, cloture requires three-fifths of the chamber, normally 60 votes. In recent years, because of a highly contentious relationship between the two parties, such a supermajority has been required to handle much of the Senate's business because without cloture any member can threaten to hold the chamber's agenda hostage by refusing to turn over control of the floor, an act known as a filibuster.

Drafted by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the measure would have required the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, with certain exceptions, beginning within 120 days of enactment of the legislation. By April 2008, all U.S. combat forces would have to be out of that country, with the exception of troops protecting U.S. personnel, training Iraqi security forces or conducting counterterrorism operations.

"We have no choice, as I have indicated earlier, but to stay in session. The Republicans have a right to talk. Let them talk. It is their filibuster. But we will continue to speak in spite of that," said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "When they finish their filibuster, we will still be speaking, continue speaking out on behalf of our troops and all Americans - all Americans, Democrats, a majority of the Republicans, and the Independents - to continue requesting consent for an up-or-down vote on our amendment to end this war."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged patience and for the Senate to wait until September until another progress report from the military is due. He accused Democrats of holding up the chamber all-night and said it wasn't Republicans doing. (See Roll Calls 249-51.)

"I would like to again assure my friend of many years, from Nevada, I understand the frustration that he shows is shared by many Americans. Our failure and our employment of a failed strategy for more than 3 years is well articulated," McCain continued. "But I also would plead with my colleagues to at least know that we are not going to stop this now. Even if the majority leader got the 60 votes and got this included in the bill in some way, the president of the United States would veto it."

In the end, even with the support of four Republicans who broke ranks and supported the cloture motion, Democrats did not have the 60 votes required to pass it. Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nevada, Gordon Smith or Oregon and Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine all voted for cloture, along with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut voted "nay." (Reid voted against the motion after it was clear it wouldn't pass in order to retain his parliamentary right to offer a motion to reconsider at a later time.)

Thus, by a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate rejected a motion to end debate and bring to a vote an amendment to the 2008 Defense authorization bill that would have required a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by April 2008, and the legislation moved forward without the requirement.

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