They were against a debate before they were for it

Seven Republican senators say they'll push harder for consideration of an anti-escalation resolution.

By Tim Grieve
Published February 8, 2007 2:00PM (EST)

John Warner and four other Republican senators who voted to block debate on Iraq resolutions this week are now vowing, one way or another, to get the Warner-Levin anti-escalation resolution to the floor of the Senate.

In a letter to Senate leaders from both parties, Warner, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, Gordon Smith and George Voinovich -- plus Norm Coleman and Susan Collins, who voted in favor of the Iraq debate Monday -- say that the war in Iraq is "the most pressing issue of our time" and "urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate and a full debate on the Senate floor without delay."

Warner and his colleagues don't say why they voted against having that debate earlier this week, nor do they say why they've had a change of heart now. Our guess? They believed then that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell would reach an agreement that would allow a debate on the Warner-Levin resolution and others -- Trent Lott was telling everyone who would listen that such a deal was coming -- and they were willing to use their no-debate votes as a way to help force that deal. With Harry Reid having announced that negotiations are now "over," those votes aren't particularly useful as bargaining tools now, and the senators who cast them probably aren't particularly thrilled about being cast as debate obstructionists.

What happens now? Five more pro-debate votes won't be enough to get escalation opponents over the filibuster hump, so the senators say in their letter that they intend to attach the Warner-Levin resolution to other upcoming legislation in the Senate. They also say that the Senate ought to be allowed to "work its will" on "concepts brought forward by other senators" as well. But that's the very issue over which the parties broke down this week -- which measures should get to the floor for debates and votes? -- and the senators don't suggest any means for resolving it. All they say is that the "current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country," and that they'll be exploring "all of our options" to end it.

Tim Grieve

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

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