US Senate Democrats lose new bid to curb Iraq war

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WASHINGTON, Sep 21 (Reuters) Frustrated US Senate Democrats failed today to force a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, capping a series of defeats that reinforced the chamber's impasse over the war.

The Senate voted 47 to 47 on a plan by Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin to require most US troops to leave Iraq within nine months of the bill's enactment -- far short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure under Senate rules.

The loss was one of a string of Democratic defeats on the war this week. A Democratic proposal for a war funding cutoff failed yesterday, and a plan to give US troops more leave between deployments also was defeated amid criticism it would limit the military's ability to maintain force levels.

Democrats had hoped more Republicans would break with President George W. Bush this fall and embrace timelines for bringing home American troops, or at least back other plans that challenged strategy in the unpopular war.

But Republicans were bolstered by a recent report from Gen.

David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, who said some progress was being made in Iraq.

Before today's vote, South Carolina Republican Sen Lindsey Graham said the proposal to withdraw most US troops within nine months was a rejection of Petraeus' strategy to pull out a limited number of U.S. forces but still leave about 130,000 troops in Iraq.

Graham, the only member of the Senate who has actually served in Iraq as a reservist, said it was a ''dangerous precedent'' for the Congress to undermine a strategy ''that has proven to be successful.'' But Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who co-sponsored Levin's proposal, said Petraeus already had embraced part of the approach by announcing plans for a limited drawdown of US troops by next summer. There are currently about 169,000 US troops in Iraq.

Reed also said senators should consider ''the reality here at home: waning support for a policy that the American people feel is misguided and has been incompetently executed by the administration.'' Although proposals for compromise on the war are proliferating among Senate centrists in both parties, they have not coalesced around a way forward.

Democratic leaders said this week they were not interested in a compromise that would not bring US troops home, while the White House lobbied to keep Republican moderates from embracing Democratic proposals for change.

REUTERS GT RK2147

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