The Senate just shot down Jim Webb’s “Time-off” amendment, which would have mandated that troops receive one month off for every month they are on duty. (Right now, many brigades get a year of rest – if that – between 15-month deployments, even though the generally accepted rest-time:deployment ratio is 2:1).
The Webb amendment vote is a significant barometer of the Senate’s willingness to force a change of course on the White House, since by adopting it senators would have, in effect, been mandating a roll back in the size of the U.S. force in Iraq.
With Republicans invoking procedural chicanery on all Iraq votes this week, the amendment (which Webb introduced with Republican Chuck Hagel) needed 60 votes to pass. It only got 56 – 49 from Democrats and 7 from Republicans. (Democrat Tim Johnson, still recuperating from a cerebral hemorrhage, was not present, nor were Republicans Sam Brownback and, not surprisingly, David Vitter. Independent Joe Lieberman vote against it.)
The 7 Republican defections marks progress for the Democrats from votes earlier this year, but obviously not nearly enough to reach the 60-vote threshold (or the 67-vote threshold they’d ultimately face if they were to pass legislation that was met by a presidential veto). The Republicans who voted “yes” included four who are on the endangered list for ’08: Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Maine’s Susan Collins, and John Sununu of New Hampshire. Hagel, Olympia Snowe, and John Warner were the other GOP “yes” votes.
Notably voting against the amendment were Richard Lugar and Pete Domenici, two of the Republicans who “broke” with the White House on Iraq last week.