Senate Democrats Get Their Way on Iraq 'Surrender Date'

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

( - A conservative "pro-troop" group is blasting the 50 U.S. senators, all but two of them Democrats, who voted Tuesday to set a date for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

"The senators who voted to undercut our troops have blood on their hands -- the blood of U.S. troops who will die from attacks by terrorists who will be emboldened by the Senate's cowardice," said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.

"Our troops on the ground in the middle of a war don't need to have their missions' undermined by some armchair generals in Washington, D.C. If these senators won't stand behind our men and women on the frontlines, then perhaps they would prefer to stand in front of them," Morgan said.

Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, failed in their attempt to remove a March 31, 2008 "surrender date" from a bill funding U.S. military operations.

The vote against the Republican amendment was 50 to 48. Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon voted with Democrats, and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans.

'Chance to change course

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called the legislation "a significant step forward in our efforts to change course in Iraq and makes America more secure."

He said the Senate bill gives the troops the resources they need in combat -- "including a strategy...worthy of their sacrifices."

Reid also said the bill gives President Bush a "chance" to change course in Iraq: "The American people have asked us to give our troops an effective, successful strategy for victory in Iraq. Both houses of Congress have listened. It is now up to the president to do the same."

But President Bush has promised to veto the bill when it reaches his desk, and as things stand now, there are not enough votes to override a veto.

Politicians running the war

Sen. McConnell said Republicans voted against setting a "surrender" date -- "because common sense tells us that politicians in Washington don't tell commanders on the battlefield when the fight is won. And they certainly don't tell the enemy that they intend to run up the white flag 365 days from today."

"Setting a date for withdrawal is like sending a memo to our enemies that tells them to rest, refit, and re-plan until the day we leave," McConnell said during debate on the bill.

He also said the consequences of having U.S. troops "walk away" will be devastating: "a Sunni minority exposed to the whims of the Shia majority, ethnic cleansing, and regional instability."

The United States did indeed change course -- a few months ago, McConnell argued. "We realized the only way we'd win this fight would be to secure the city of Baghdad, the seat of the Iraqi government and home to a quarter of its population. And we implemented a strategy to do it."

But Democrats strongly oppose President Bush's "troop surge" strategy - without giving it time to work, some Republicans have complained.

The Senate vote sends a message to terrorists that they are winning and that congressional leaders "lack the will and resolve to win the war on terrorism," said Melanie Morgan of Move America Forward.

She said her group is launching a national advertising campaign that will single out those who "seek to undermine support for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The House last week passed a war funding bill that sets a date for the U.S. to start withdrawing its troops from Iraq (no war funding as of Sept. 1, 2008, the bill says).

Democrats expect a conference committee to start reconciling differences in the House and Senate bills later this spring.

See Earlier Story:
House Passes Military Funding Bill With 2008 Troop Pullout (March 23, 2007)

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