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Republicans Turn Back Iraq Withdrawal Bill

The Senate on Friday blocked legislation that would have ordered most U.S. troops home from Iraq in nine months.

The 47-47 vote on the bill sponored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), fell 13 votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate.

Republicans blocked the measure, saying it would have dire consequences for the war effort. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, recommend that only 30,000 of the current 160,000 troops stationed there be withdrawn by next summer.

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"It would be a very overt rejection of Gen. Petraeus' leadership," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The military commanders "have earned the ability to carry on their mission," he said at another point.

Republican members say they now remain hopeful that another year of combat will stabilize Iraq and prevent U.S. troops from returning to the region a decade later.

"If we leave, we will be back — in Iraq and elsewhere — in many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a presidential candidate and the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Democrats this week abandoned attempts to reach a bipartisan compromise on Levin's legislation. Levin had said he would have been willing to turn the nine-month date into a goal for troop withdrawals, rather than a mandated deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans, along with Mr. Bush, now own the war.

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"Back home they assert their independence, but in Washington they walk in lockstep with the president and continue to support his failed policies," said Reid (D-NV).

Recent polls show that American views of the war have not changed significantly since Petraeus appeared before congressional committees two days last week.

A poll released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Americans still favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. Despite slight improvements in the public's view of military progress, more said the U.S. will likely fail in Iraq than succeed — by 47 percent to 42 percent — about the same margin as in July.

Friday's vote finished a week of disappointments for Democrats.

On Wednesday, the Senate blocked legislation by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) that would have guaranteed troops more time at home; it fell by a 56-44 vote with 60 votes needed to advance.

On Thursday, the Senate blocked legislation sponsored by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) that would have cut off funding for combat in June 2008. That measure failed by a 70-28 vote, 32 votes short of 60.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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