Senate to try Iraq debate again

The U.S. Senate will try again to confront President George W. Bush over his troop buildup in Iraq, Democratic leaders announced on Thursday, more than a week after senators shelved the issue in a procedural brawl.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he was scheduling a rare Saturday session to vote on whether to consider a resolution, currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives, opposing Bush’s recent decision to add 21,500 troops in Iraq.

The resolution, which would not force Bush to take any action but was intended to increase political pressure against the troop increase, was expected to pass the House on Friday.

Congress had been scheduled to take its first recess of the new session beginning on Friday, so the Reid’s decision would force the Senate to remain in Washington as the break begins, increasing pressure on senators to act quickly.

“We are going to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

Bush, a Republican, has said he would not be swayed by nonbinding resolutions on the war.

Efforts to bring up a similar, but much more detailed, resolution disagreeing with Bush’s troop increase failed in the Senate on February 5 when most Republicans voted against considering it — even though several Republican senators had co-sponsored it.

Republicans said they voted no to protest the majority Democrats’ refusal to give equal treatment to a Republican proposal declaring Congress would not restrict funding for U.S. troops.

But with the House busy debating Iraq and pressure groups criticizing the Senate for its behavior, unhappy senators in both parties were looking for a way to return to the subject considered the paramount issue in the United States.

It was unclear whether views had been swayed to alter the outcome of the procedural vote set for Saturday, as the underlying fight over the Republicans’ funding proposal has not been resolved.

Sixty votes are needed in the 100-member chamber to begin debate on the resolution. Last time Democrats fell far short of the votes needed to move to debate.

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited