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Senate Democrats again frustrated in effort to withdraw troops

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Sen. Christopher Dodd says he will only vote to cut war funding
  • Latest bid to pull combat troops from Iraq in nine months fails
  • By a wide margin, proposal to cut money off for the war was killed Thursday
  • Senate approved a resolution condemning a controversial ad by MoveOn.org
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From Dana Bash and Lisa Goddard
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican senators on Friday were again able to block a Democratic amendment that would set "definite timelines" for bringing home American combat forces from Iraq.

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Democrats will keep pushing to bring troops home from Iraq, Sen. Harry Reid says.

The amendment, offered by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, called for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq in nine months. It failed on a vote of 47 to 47.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said the Levin-Reed proposal is "basically the same as it was" back in July, when it drew the support of 52 senators, including four Republicans.

Three Democratic senators -- Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- voted "no" Friday after voting for the amendment in July.

Dodd, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement that he will "only vote to fully fund the complete redeployment of our troops out of Iraq."

"This bill will not stop this president from continuing to wage this war," Dodd said. "While a firm deadline is necessary, it is not sufficient without it also being enforceable through the power of the purse."

Three Republican senators -- Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- joined the Democrats in voting for the measure.

One Republican senator, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, had voted "yes" during the July vote, which was on procedural vote to allow the bill to proceed to a final vote, but voted "no" on Friday. Collin's office said her "yes" vote in July was not intended to signal her endorsement of the the amendment, only that she wanted the debate to continue.

Democratic leaders had hoped to negotiate new language -- something short of a hard-and-fast deadline for troop withdrawal -- that would attract enough Republican support to reach 60 votes. But those talks have so far not borne fruit.

On Thursday, Reid said Democrats are disappointed they have been unable to force President Bush to change course in Iraq, but they will keep pushing -- with or without Republican help.

GOP senators have filibustered every Democratic-led push to bring troops home from Iraq. They used a procedural vote Wednesday to kill a proposal that would have required the Pentagon to give troops returning from Iraq stateside time equal to their time in the combat zone.

Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the plan, but the final vote was four short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

"They want to protect the president more than they want to protect our troops," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

And by a wide margin Thursday, senators killed a proposal by Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold to cut off money for the war. The vote was 70-28.

Many Democrats have said the November elections that brought them to power were a mandate to end the widely unpopular 4-year-old war with a U.S. death toll nearing 3,800. Reid said his caucus is disappointed and frustrated over the troop deployment vote, but insisted he would not support measures that do nothing to bring the conflict to an end.

"The majority of Congress wants to change the course of Iraq," he said. "This isn't a time to sit down and pat each other on the back and say, 'We worked something out that is bipartisan.' The only thing I'm going to agree on that is bipartisan is something that does something."

"It is very clear to the American people who supports President Bush's war," he said. "It appears that this is not only President Bush's war, it is the Republican senators' war."

Reid bristled at a question about whether Democrats are doing enough to find compromise with Republicans, saying, "I even called Larry Craig" to ask for his support on Wednesday's vote.

Craig, R-Idaho, has announced plans to resign from the Senate at the end of the month after pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom sex sting. But he has called his guilty plea a mistake, and is seeking to withdraw it.

Reid said he has called Republican senators' offices multiple times.

All 49 Democrats and one independent who caucuses with them -- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- supported Wednesday's measure. The chamber's other independent, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- who also caucuses with Democrats -- voted with Republicans on the measure.

The Senate did succeed in approving a resolution condemning a controversial newspaper ad by anti-war activist group MoveOn.org, which accused the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, of "cooking the books for the White House" in his testimony to Congress last week. The vote was 72-25.

"This amendment gives our colleagues a chance to distance themselves from these despicable tactics; distance themselves from the notion that some group literally has them on a leash, like a puppet on a string," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

Even then, Republicans managed to filibuster a Democratic proposal condemning GOP attacks on former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts during his 2004 presidential campaign.

"It's time to take a stand, not to dredge up political matters of the past -- but to condemn this ad," McConnell said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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