Gibbons, Reid: Keep the war going

Two of the three members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada voted against setting a date for withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from Iraq. So did both of Nevada’s U.S. senators, Harry Reid and John Ensign.

In a vote on a ceremonial resolution that Republican leaders touted as a victory for Bush policies, Reps. James Gibbons and Jon Porter of Nevada voted yes, while Rep. Shelley Berkley voted no. Berkley is the only Democrat among the three.

The non-binding resolution was filled with emotionally loaded language—the Los Angeles Times called it “acerbic". War critics said it was designed to force them to vote against anti-terrorism efforts in order to register a vote against the Bush war policy. A key phrase in the resolution says that “it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq.”

Then in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a Republican, sponsored a resolution without all the political boilerplate attached. It would have required withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and urged an Iraq summit. Although McConnell himself voted against it, the measure would have given Democrats substantial political cover—a GOP-sponsored withdrawal measure.

But they passed up the opportunity. All but six Democrats voted against the amendment by voting to table it. It was Nevada’s Harry Reid who offered the motion to kill the McConnell amendment by tabling it. His floor remarks seemed to suggest that he didn’t like the amendment because it wasn’t sponsored by a Democrat like John Kerry: “Mr. President, two things that do not exist in Iraq and have not are weapons of mass destruction and cutting and running. This is the McConnell amendment. It is not the Kerry amendment … I move to table the McConnell amendment.”

However, Kerry himself was not so finicky or tied to pride of authorship of his own amendment—he voted for the McConnell measure. Besides Kerry, Sens. Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Edward Kennedy, Russ Feingold and Tom Harkin voted for it.

Then a few days later, the Democrats finally got a vote on a Democratic-sponsored withdrawal measure. The measure was defeated 86 to 13 with most Democrats—including Reid—and all Republicans voting against withdrawal from Iraq.

Only on a nonbinding resolution calling for withdrawal by the end of the year did a majority of Democrats finally vote for withdrawal, on a measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. Reid voted for the amendment and Ensign against. The measure died on a 60-39 vote.