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Iraq Transition

Senate preparing for weekend showdown on Iraq

Story Highlights

• Votes scrambles campaign plans; Sen. McCain not planning to attend
• Key test vote on Iraq resolution set for Saturday in the Senate
• Democrats need 60 votes to overcome Republican procedural blocks
• Resolution objects to President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Setting up a new showdown over Iraq, Senate Democratic leaders are planning a key test vote Saturday on a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send additional troops into combat.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said a Saturday session will take up a nonbinding measure now before the House of Representatives.

The Saturday vote will be a procedural vote on whether the Senate should move on to a final vote on a resolution that expresses opposition to Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops to Iraq.

Senate Republicans succeeded last week in blocking a vote on a similar resolution. Reid urged Senate Republicans to drop their procedural moves.

"We demand an up-or-down vote on the resolution that the House is debating as we speak," Reid said. "The resolution says we support the troops and oppose the escalation of the presence in Iraq. We're determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve."

Said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York: "This is a process where step by step by step, we ratchet up the pressure on the president and on his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate and force them to do what the American people want. (Watch Schumer say Democrats are calling the GOP's "bluff" Video)

In the House, 17 Republicans joined Democrats on Friday in passing the two-sentence resolution. It expresses support for U.S. troops in Iraq but states that Congress "disapproves" of Bush's troop increase. (Full story)

It was not clear whether Reid and his allies will get the 60 votes needed for the Senate to cut off debate on other matters and turn to the issue.

Vote causes candidates to scrambled

Saturday's vote forces several 2008 presidential candidates scrambled to alter their schedules in order to make it back to Capitol Hill on time.

Five senators have pledged to interrupt their campaign trips and return to Washington for the vote. The sixth senator running for the White House, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has decided not to alter his schedule, electing to skip the Iraq vote.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware canceled two events in Iowa Saturday morning but will return to the state after the vote. Sen. Clinton of New York was forced to cancel a house party in New Hampshire and will not return to the New Hampshire after the vote.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is also trekking back from New Hampshire for the vote. And Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was able to find an opening between events in South Carolina and Virginia to make it back for the vote.

On the Republican side, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is returning from a trip to Iowa and Nebraska Friday and is hoping to immediately charter a flight to Florida after the vote.

GOP insists on 'a measure of fairness'

On February 5, all but two GOP senators voted to block debate on a nonbinding resolution backed by most Democrats and several Republicans that would have expressed the Senate's opposition. (Full story)

Republicans said Reid's latest move appears to leave behind that measure, backed by Sens. John Warner, R-Virginia, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Carl Levin, D-Michigan, the panel's current chairman. (View Iraq proposals introduced in the Senate)

Republican leaders insisted that members get a chance to vote on two GOP alternatives, and that the process be conducted under rules that called for 60 votes to pass.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Republicans will insist on "a measure of fairness," allowing them to offer alternative resolutions -- including one stating the Senate won't cut off money for troops in the field.

"If we have only one alternative, it will involve a vote on funding the troops," McConnell said. He predicted enough Republicans would stick with him to prevent the House resolution from coming to the floor.

Published polls indicate a solid majority of the U.S. public opposes the Bush plan, and Democrats said the November election victories that put them in control of Congress show Americans want to wind down the nearly four-year-old war.

Bush challenges Congress not to cut funding

Bush noted Thursday that the Senate recently confirmed the promotion of Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, even as members criticized the strategy he was installed to pursue.

Though the president said lawmakers "have every right to express their opinion," he demanded they support an upcoming spending bill that would commit nearly $100 billion more to the war effort. (Watch Bush challenge Congress not to cut war funding Video)

"Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission," Bush said.

The House held a third day of debate on its resolution Thursday, with Republicans arguing that its passage would be a sign of weakness in the war against terrorism. Proceedings are scheduled to resume Friday morning.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri, said the measure contains "no positive suggestion whatsoever" for dealing with Iraq. (Full story)

"All that does is to encourage our enemies," Akin said. "Without any positive recommendation, this can only be viewed as something that strengthens our opponents' hands."

But Rep. Charles Gonzales, D-Texas, replied that "an escalation of the war is unwarranted, and is not in the best interest of our nation and our troops."


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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, left, with Majority Whip Dick Durbin, urges Republicans to drop procedural moves against an Iraq resolution.

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