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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Senate Balks At Move to Widen War




WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate voted with White House backing to scuttle a proposal sanctioning a wider war over Kosovo, prompting an angry Senator John McCain to charge that U.S. President Bill Clinton is "prepared to lose a war" to avoid tough choices.


The 78-to-22 vote Tuesday to shelve the Republican senator's proposal to authorize "all necessary force," including ground troops, followed an eight-hour debate that underscored the deep divisions over the war. While most said McCain's proposal was premature and too broad, they could not agree on whether to escalate the war, rely on airstrikes or pursue a negotiated settlement.


The vote to table the McCain proposal without voting on its merits also demonstrated bipartisan resolve on the part of Senate leaders to avoid sending another wavering signal just a week after the House of Representatives approved conflicting positions on the war.


White House spokesman Joe Lockhart hailed the Senate vote as an affirmation of support for the air campaign, but Tuesday's debate revealed strong doubts over Clinton's conduct of the war.


The vote cut across partisan and ideological lines, with nine Republicans and 13 Democrats supporting the proposal and 46 Republicans and 32 Democrats voting to lay it aside. Some who voted against it said they could support it later.


Majority Leader Trent Lott said he thought Clinton had a "good chance" for Senate approval to send ground forces to Kosovo if he asked for it.


Lott's comment served both to blunt any signal of irresolution from the vote and to emphasize Clinton's responsibility for conduct of the war, making it clear the decision on ground troops must come from Clinton, not Congress.


Clinton's opposition to his proposal - and active lobbying against it by Cabinet members - enraged McCain, who is hoping for Republican presidential nomination and has gained ground in early polling.


"The president of the United States is prepared to lose a war rather than do the hard work, the politically risky work, of fighting it as the leader of the greatest nation on earth should fight when our interests and values are imperiled," said McCain a former POW in Vietnam.