An amendment cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders to give U.S. troops longer rest periods between combat deployments in Iraq fell victim to a Republican filibuster. "The war in Iraq has been devastating in so many areas, not least of all the impact on our soldiers and their families," Sanders said. "It is unconscionable that we are sending not only active duty troops, but members of National Guard and Reserve units that are already stretched thin, back to the war zone over and over again. It is an outrage that Republican senators care more about protecting the president than protecting our troops."
The Senate vote was 56-to-41, four short of the number needed to end debate on the amendment by Senator Jim Webb to the defense authorization bill. Cosponsored by Sanders and others, the measure would have made leaves between deployments last at least as long as combat tours. For the National Guard and Reserves, no unit or member could be redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan within three years of their previous deployment.
Repeated tours are hurting recruitment, driving up attrition rates in the military, depressing recruitment and depleting units of vital equipment.
It was the fifth time this year that Senate Republicans effectively blocked an effort to change U.S. policy in Iraq. Despite increasing public criticism of President Bush's war strategy, only seven Republicans supported the troop deployment amendment.
There continue to be signs of hope, however.
The Associated Press reported that "several Republican senators told President Bush's top national security aide privately Wednesday that they did not want Bush to wait until September to change course in Iraq. The meeting that lawmakers had with national security adviser Stephen Hadley came as Senators Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel announced they would back…legislation ordering combat to end next spring."
To see the full Senate roll call vote on the troop deployment amendment, click here