The sense of the Senate

At least one Republican seems set to join Democrats in a resolution condemning Bush's Iraq plan.

By Tim Grieve
Published January 17, 2007 3:48PM (EST)

As we listened to senators from both sides of the aisle criticize the president's "new way forward" for Iraq last week, we wondered how many of the plan's Republican critics would be willing to put their votes where their mouths were. As of this morning, we've got the beginnings of an answer: At least one. Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel tells the New York Times that he is working with Democrats Joe Biden and Carl Levin on language for a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush's escalation of the war.

While Hagel's participation gives the resolution a "bipartisan stamp," it probably won't be enough, in and of itself, to get the measure passed. Although the Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, Sen. Tim Johnson's continued absence leaves them with just 50 votes in their caucus. Take away Joe Lieberman, who has already said he supports the president's plan, and the Democrats have at most 49 anti-escalation votes. Hagel gets them back up to 50, but a 50-49 advantage almost certainly won't be sufficient. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that it's going to take 60 votes to get the resolution adopted, which means he intends to force a cloture vote on a filibuster -- or, as the Times puts it rather more gently, "to raise procedural arguments against" the resolution.

Will 10 more Republicans cross over? Will Harry Reid be able to hold onto all of the Democrats? That all remains to be seen. One worrying sign: As the Times notes, the GOP will likely offer alternative measures that will allow Republican senators to express their frustrations with the war without bucking Bush so directly. One sobering thought: Even in the best-case scenario, what we're talking about here is whether the Senate has the courage to pass a nonbinding resolution that would bring the body in line with what a solid majority of Americans already think.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Iraq Iraq War Joe Lieberman Middle East War Room