Reid: 'We Will Work Straight Through the Night?'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is demanding that Republicans allow Democrats an "up-or-down -- yes or no -- vote on the most important issue our country faces" -- the Iraq war.

In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Reid told Republicans that Democrats have no intention of backing down on their effort to "transition" the Iraq mission, which means withdrawing U.S. troops.

Previous efforts to withdraw U.S. troops have failed multiple times in both the House and Senate because of Republican "obstruction," Reid said.

"I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down. If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin-Reed today [Monday] or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday," Reid said.

The Levin/Reed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill says the U.S. troop withdrawal must be completed by April 30, 2008, at which time the U.S. military mission would be limited to counter-terror operations and training of Iraqi security forces.

"Given the Republican leadership's decision to block the amendment, we have no choice but to do everything we can in the coming days to highlight Republican obstruction. We do this in hopes of ultimately getting a simple up-or-down vote on this and other important amendments that could change the direction of the war."

Reid said all senators will have a chance to "speak their mind."

"Those of us who are ready to end the war will make our case to the American people. Those who support the status quo are welcome to equal floor time to make their case. Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate. Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment.

"Whenever Republicans are ready to allow a vote on this most crucial legislation, we stand ready to deliver the new course that has been so long in coming."

Reid argues that after 52 months, America is "mired in one of the most tragic foreign policy blunders in our nation's history, with no end in sight." He said he fears it will take years, if not decades, to fix the damage the war has caused U.S. troops, the U.S. economy, and the nation's "moral standing."

On the day Reid spoke, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another record high, and the Bush administration notes that the U.S. economy has experienced over five years of uninterrupted growth - leading to lower deficit projections.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has raised a number of questions about the Levin/Reed amendment, which he described as "a page and a half of vague proposals."

"Americans need to know what they're being asked to consider," he said on Friday.

"The Levin Amendment says the Secretary of Defense shall 'commence the reduction of the number of United States forces in Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.' What would this reduction involve?

"The Levin Amendment calls for U.S. forces in Iraq to have 'a limited presence' after the reduction. What is a limited presence?

"The Levin Amendment says our Armed Forces should only be used to protect U.S. personnel, to train Iraqis to fight, and to engage in 'targeted counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda.' What does 'targeted' mean?

"The Levin Amendment says 'the Secretary of Defense shall complete the transition of U.S. forces in Iraq to a limited presence and missions by April 30.' How does the author define 'complete'?"

Blame Bush

McConnell said Democrats want Republicans to choose their plan over that of General David Petraeus, who has asked for more troops - and more time. In May, the Senate set a September deadline for Gen. Petraeus to report back on his progress.

McConnell said Senate Democrats are acting prematurely in declaring the troop surge strategy a failure just a month after all the troops arrived.

"We've been down this road before," McConnell said. "When the President decided to change course in Iraq last year, Democrats said his new strategy wouldn't work. They called it a failure before it began. And now, just one month after that strategy became fully manned, they're calling it a failure again - even as it's started to show signs of military success."

McConnell and other Republicans argue that a U.S. troop withdrawal will lead to increased violence in Iraq, thousands of civilian deaths, and a conflict that will spread throughout the region.

Democrats will simply blame President Bush for any adverse consequences stemming from a troop withdrawal. "That may work on the stump," McConnell said. "But it's not a very sophisticated foreign policy. And it's not going to solve the grave problems we face in Iraq and the broader Middle East."

"More than 160,000 American soldiers and Marines are fighting in Iraq right now. They believe in this mission. They are executing a plan, and they have a leader. He's asking for more time. Let's be fair and honor the legislation we passed in May. Let's wait for the [Petraeus] report," McConnell said.

The plan to keep senators debating the Iraq war strategy through Tuesday night is a "political stunt," said House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a Tuesday morning interview on Fox News.

"I and many Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that we ought to allow General Petraeus's plan a chance to succeed."

Boehner said Baghdad is becoming more secure and the terrorists are growing more desperate.

Asked about the handful of Republicans who are now backing a troop withdrawal, Boehner noted that some Democrats on the Hill are supporting General Petraeus and are willing to give the troop surge plan a chance to work.

"If we don't take on al Qaeda in Iraq, where do we draw the line?" Boehner asked. "This is a very determined enemy."

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