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Hagel Acquiesces To Block Debate On Non-binding Iraq Resolution
Nebraska StatePaper.com
By ED HOWARD / Analysis
February 6, 2007

War is hell.

Politics is politics, and sometimes that's one hell of a thing.

Especially when war is involved.

Senator Chuck Hagel, the "America deserves that debate" on Iraq guy, decided Monday that the country does not need that debate right now.

Senate Republicans succeeded in using a procedural vote to block debate on a compromise resolution criticizing the decision of President Bush to send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq.

Hagel is a co-sponsor of the non-binding, bipartisan resolution – but he joined every other GOP senator in voting to avoid debate.

Interestingly, Hagel was still talking last Friday about the absolute need for the debate. That was the same Friday when the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky confidently guaranteed that all of the Republican flock would be in the fold, voting against taking up the resolution.

It was equally interesting that while the usually tough-talking Hagel chose to bend to the will of the Republican boss, the usually congenial Democratic Senator Ben Nelson criticized his colleagues, and challenged them to step up to the plate. Nelson is also a key co-sponsor of the bipartisan, compromise offering.

"So I ask my colleagues, if not now, When? If not now, do we wait for more troops to die before we oppose the president's plan? If not now, do we wait for more violence, more unrest, and more danger for our troops before we act?


"Some have said the president deserves ‘one last chance' to succeed. How do we ask our troops to do again what has failed in the past? We've had other surges that have not succeeded for a variety of reasons – not the least of which [is that] the Iraqis did not show up! What's different this time? I hope we don't look back on this as our last hurrah."

Procedural rules is rules. Business is business; and the business of politics goes on long after issues once in the spotlight have grown a bit dim.

From the Republican leadership in the Senate, to the self-proclaimed decider in the White House, you can bet the GOP message was clear: "Piss us off and you will pay the price!"

Even hotshot Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia backed down, rather than insist on the debate that he, Hagel and other Republicans had previously said was so absolutely crucial to the national interest.

Does anyone (or, doesn't everyone) remember Hagel's virtual speech to the nation at that Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week?

"And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide anymore; none of us.

"That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we're not willing to do it, we're not worthy to be seated right here. We fail our country. If we don't debate this, if we don't debate this, we are not worthy of our country. We fail our country."

McConnell wanted to deal for votes on a couple of Republican-sponsored resolutions that were supportive of Bush. No deal, no debate.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, told the opposition: "You can run but you can't hide.* We are going to debate Iraq."

In the politics is politics category: What happened to the cry of Republicans, when they had a narrow majority, that anything of great national import deserved a "straight up or down vote" in the Senate? It was the Democrats' turn to disagree back then. (Although even the Republican majority dropped the shout for a vote of any kind, back in the day when Bush nominated a White House babysitter for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Forty-seven Democrats and two Republicans voted to open debate on the compromise resolution; 45 Republicans and one independent (Joe Lieberman) opposed it.

Days before, Hagel said the bipartisan resolution – which toned down tougher language which he had first authored – would be a winner.

"I expect it to pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote," Hagel had predicted

*For the record: Reid was paraphrasing the late, legendary heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. When facing Billy Conn in1946, Louis acknowledged that the Irish guy from Pittsburgh was fast of foot and hands, a real boxer. "He can run but he can't hide," Louis said. Louis was right, since he knocked out Conn in the 13th round. However – Conn beat the bejbeebers out of him until that time. Conn lost because he became greedy, and decided he could KO the Brown Bomber. When he tried to slug it out, both his ego and his butt went down for the count.


Here is the text of Nelson's statement to the full Senate:

"Mr. President, let me begin by stating for the record and for my colleagues that this debate is not about support for the troops or support for their extraordinary work on the ground in Iraq.

"Our troops, the best fighting force in the history of the world, have performed admirably, honorably and successfully under extreme, unusual and dangerous conditions in Iraq. We are not here today to besmirch their efforts, their work or their sacrifice. To indicate otherwise is disingenuous and out of line.

"This is not the time or the place for political attacks.  The President even made an offer to Congress, before a nationally televised audience on January 10th, that "if members have improvements that can be made, we will make them."

"This is a debate about a serious topic – what is the way forward in Iraq? How can we achieve a political solution without the additional loss of American lives?

"One of my colleagues has said over and over, "this comes down to if you support an escalation or not" and "the American people deserve this debate."

"For me the question is: Will the Senate lead? Will the Senate express its opposition to the surge? I know that many don't think passing a non-binding resolution is leading. I know others say the resolution goes too far.

"I say that on an issue of this magnitude, an issue this important, it is critical for the Senate to speak with the strongest voice possible. Generating a revised resolution with broader appeal is putting our best foot forward in securing the strongest bipartisan vote possible.

"I am proud to have worked with Senator Warner, the most recent past chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and our colleague Senator Collins of Maine in this cause.  They have both shown tremendous leadership on this issue as has Senator Levin, Biden and Hagel.

"But it seems that even when it comes to the lives of our troops – partisanship prevails. Here we are, after weeks of negotiations, after weeks of public proclamations, after weeks of consideration – we are about to witness the minority choose politics over progress.  And this is after we revised our original resolution to address some of the concerns that were raised by both Democrats and Republicans.

"It's important that we point out that this is not simply about being opposed to a surge. It's about opposition to a surge to do what?  To go into Baghdad -- to go into the midst of sectarian violence, civil war, criminality. There is no opposition to continuing to support troops in al-Anbar and even an increase in the troops to fight the bad guys in that location. But that is altogether different from going into Baghdad where our troops will be expected to be on the point and in harm's way in the midst of sectarian violence that is unheralded, unparalleled across our great world today, but in strong support of Iraq we must in fact do what we can to support Iraq but without putting our troops in the midst of that caldron.

"Now, the Baker-Hamilton report made things very clear, and we've established benchmarks as well that we should empower the Iraqi government to be able to do what it can to quell its own violence. We cannot win their civil war. We cannot stop the violence in Baghdad. Only a political solution achieved by the Iraqis will be able to do that.

"Mr. President, if we are to do our duty, if we are to exhibit leadership, let us begin by allowing a full debate on the resolutions we have pending – lets talk about the President's plan to deploy American troops to the crossroads of civil war in Iraq.  Let's talk about holding the Iraqi government accountable for its responsibilities.

"I'm prepared to defend the resolution I offered with Senators Warner, Collins and Levin. I am prepared to vote on the McCain resolution. I am prepared for this debate because its time has come.

"So I ask my colleagues, if not now, When? If not now, do we wait for more troops to die before we oppose the president's plan? If not now, do we wait for more violence, more unrest, and more danger for our troops before we act?

"Some have said the president deserves "one last chance" to succeed. How do we ask our troops to do again what has failed in the past – we've had other surges that have not succeeded for a variety of reasons not the least of which the Iraqis did not show up. What's different this time? I hope we don't look

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