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7 GOP senators to force debate on troops in Iraq

Story Highlights

• Senators say they'll attach Iraq resolution to other bills to force debate
• Motion to debate Iraq resolution stalled, fell short of required 60 votes
• Resolution to oppose Bush's troop increase plan would be nonbinding
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Seven Republican senators, who support a resolution that opposes sending more troops to Iraq, are considering political tactics to force debate on the measure, which stalled in the Senate this week.

Debate on the resolution was stymied Monday when backers could not get the 60 votes needed on a motion to move it toward a vote.

In a letter to the Senate leadership, the seven senators said: "Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the [resolution's] concepts."

One tactic would be to attach language from the stalled resolution to any legislation that comes up -- thus forcing debate on President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, one of the sponsors of the resolution opposing deployment of more troops, said he sent a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate.

Reading the letter on the Senate floor Wednesday, Warner said that he and the six other senators "will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate."

Warner called the stalemate "unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."

"The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time. It urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate and a full debate," he said."We strongly believe the Senate should be allowed to work its will on our resolution, as well as the concepts brought forward by other senators."

GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, George Voinovich of Ohio, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined Warner in signing the letter.

Warner-Levin resolution would be nonbinding

The Warner resolution, also sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, states that the Senate "disagrees" with Bush's plan to increase U.S. forces by more than 21,000 in Baghdad and Anbar province, as part of a new security plan designed to quell sectarian violence in Iraq. However, it also states that Congress should not try to stop the deployment by cutting off money for it, as some Iraq war critics have suggested.

The motion to proceed with debate on it failed when all but two of the Senate's Republicans backed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in his insistence that two alternate resolutions also be brought to the floor, leaving it short of the required 60 votes in the chamber that is split 51-49 in favor of Democrats. (Watch Democrats, Republicans jockey for political edge on Iraq)

McConnell also wants to require 60 votes for any of the resolutions to pass.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has refused to accede to McConnell's demands and accused Republicans of trying to "stamp out" a debate and vote the White House does not want.

Five of the seven Republicans now threatening to attach the stalled language to other bills voted against moving ahead Monday, including Warner, Smith, Voinovich, Snowe and Hagel. Collins and Coleman sided with almost all of the Senate's Democrats in voting to consider the resolution.

The letter did not address whether those five senators were now prepared to change their position if the motion to move forward is brought up again. However, even if they did, at least two other senators would also have to switch to get to the required 60 votes.

With the Iraq debate stalled in the Senate, House Democratic leaders announced Tuesday that they would bring their own resolution opposing Bush's plan to the floor next week. A Democratic leadership aide said that language would likely be modeled on the Warner-Levin measure in the Senate.

All of the resolutions would be nonbinding, and Bush administration officials have made it clear they plan to proceed with the troop increase no matter what Congress does. But opponents of Bush's plan hope a strong bipartisan vote of disapproval will build pressure on the president to change course.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


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A Capitol Hill police officer takes anti-war protester Lori Perdue away after she briefly disrupted a Senate panel hearing on Iraq on Tuesday.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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