Senate begins debate on Iraq funding

Sens. Reid and Webb say the time is now for big changes in war policy.

Published July 9, 2007 7:24PM (EDT)

Just moments before the Senate began what promises to be at least two weeks of lively debate on funding in the 2008 defense authorization bill, much of which is likely to focus on the Iraq war, Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Jim Webb, D-Va., told reporters that they're ready to move on several Iraq-related amendments -- and they hope Republicans will join them.

"We invite them to come with us," said Reid, referring to the Republican Congressmen who've recently come out against the President's policy on Iraq. "We put our arms around them. We do not push them away."

First up for debate is Webb's amendment, which would require that active-duty soldiers get as much time at home between deployments as they served in Iraq or Afghanistan. National Guard and Reserve soldiers would have three years at home for each year of service. Though Webb's amendment is cosponsored by a Republican, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, it is likely to face fierce opposition and a possible veto.

Asked about whether he considered waiting to propose his amendment until next week when the administration is scheduled to report report to Congress on progress in Iraq, Webb gave a firm no.

"I don't care what the report says next week," said Webb. "This is an amendment that needs to pass. This is something that needs to be done for the health of our military and the health of our troops."

Reid said he hopes to have a vote on Webb's amendment tomorrow, and then begin debate on his own amendment with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., which calls for troop redeployment to begin in 120 days.

Update: As reader Archgarth correctly points out in comments, we mistakenly referred to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a Democrat from Utah. He's from Nevada.

By Julia Dahl

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Harry Reid Iraq Jim Webb Middle East War Room