Two weeks ago, Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who say they oppose escalating the war, nevertheless voted to block debate on a bipartisan resolution opposing Bush’s Iraq policy.
Facing a political backlash, those same senators now say they want a vote immediately. In a letter yesterday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Hagel and Snowe said they planned to block the Senate from adjourning for next week’s recess until a vote on escalation was held.
Today, Reid called their bluff. At a press conference, Reid announced that he will delay the Senate’s recess and hold a cloture vote on the Iraq resolution on Saturday. “Time is of the essence,” Reid said, and we are “determined to end the silence and find a new direction.” Watch it:
The Washington Post reports, “If the Saturday vote succeeds, Reid said he may cancel the upcoming week-long recess” to move forward with a full vote on the resolution.
The Republican-controlled Senate has sat silent on Iraq for four years. In the short few weeks we’ve been in session, we’ve held hearing after hearing as it relates to Iraq. We’ve held far more hearings than they held, which is easy because they didn’t hold any.
The American people put us in charge. We made it clear that we were determined to end the silence and find a new direction. We tried to permit the full Senate to speak on this important issue: escalation or no escalation in Iraq.
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans, including many who are now expressing concern about the lack of a debate, blocked our efforts to have the Senate express its views on this most important issue.
Just again today, we offered our Republican colleagues an opportunity to debate the president’s Iraq policy. And then, when Senator McCain raised his voice and said, I offered something in support of the president, with benchmarks, I said, Fine, we’ll do that: the measure that the House is debating right now, plus we’ll do McCain. They again objected to that.
We demand an up-or-down vote on the resolution that the House is debating as we speak, a resolution that says we support the troops and we oppose the escalation of the presence in Iraq.
We’re determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve.
Now, we know that time is of the essence. That’s why the Senate will have another Iraq vote on Saturday. Cloture will be filed on the House version of the non-escalation policy today, for a Saturday cloture vote.
The Republicans then will have an opportunity to determine if they’re going to allow the Senate to vote up or down on this resolution, and to allow the American people to see how United States senators feel about the president’s policy in Iraq.