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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Republicans Block Debate on Bush's Troop Proposal

WASHINGTON -- Republicans in the U.S. Senate for a second time blocked a symbolic attempt by Democrats to reject U.S. President George W. Bush's troop increase Saturday, but Republican defections were higher than before, suggesting cracks as the Iraq war dominates Congress' agenda.

With the 56-34 vote, Democrats fell shy of the 60 votes required to kick off debate on a nonbinding resolution passed by the House last week expressing support for the troops but criticizes Bush's decision to expand combat ranks by more than 20,000 troops. Senate Democrats picked up five new Republican allies in their effort to advance the resolution, bringing the Republicans' total to seven.

But the fate of the resolution is now very much in doubt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced after the vote that he would not bring up the resolution again. Both sides instead are girding for the next phase, a confrontation over war funding, with some Democrats determined to exercise the power of the purse to influence Iraq strategy.

As Congress struggled to find its voice in the Iraq debate, the administration intensified its own campaign to convince the U.S. public that the conflict remains winnable. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday, announcing that the increase in troops was bringing "new hope and a new optimism" to the besieged city. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured Bush on Friday that the buildup had already achieved "fabulous success."

Those optimistic pronouncements appeared to have little impact on the Senate floor, where a rare Saturday session made for a dramatic political tableau. Presidential candidates jetted in from various primary states, having canceled visits to popular dinners and town-hall meetings to cast their vote.