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Reid Promises Big Senate Sleepover on Iraq Vote

“It’s a shame that we find ourselves in this position,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor Monday. “The sensible, logical way to set up this debate ... would have been to do it by consent with two 60-vote thresholds. This continued effort to thwart the ability of the minority to get amendments in the queue and to get them voted on is not a very, I might say, very effective way, really, to legislate because it produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation.”

In a bit of a slap at the majority’s plans for tonight, McConnell filed cloture — or moved to limit debate — on the Cornyn proposal in a maneuver designed to force a vote immediately after the vote on the Democrats’ amendment. Filing cloture is the only way McConnell could ensure a vote on the measure.

Regardless of whether anyone sleeps tonight, the end result for Levin-Reed likely will be failure. But while it probably will fall short of 60 votes, Democrats are poised to garner as many as 53 votes, a potential new high-water mark for their efforts to force the president’s hand on Iraq.

The outcome on Cornyn is less certain. Because it is nonbinding, Democrats may decide it is meaningless and support it. Or conversely, they could decide it’s meaningless and oppose it.

Even with the outcome largely a foregone conclusion, today and tonight’s Democratic offensive on pulling out of Iraq will include Iraq veterans visiting GOP Senators’ offices to plead for the Levin-Reed amendment, House Members pontificating from their side of the Capitol and staged “counterfilibusters” at home-state GOP Senate offices, according to a Senate Democratic strategy memo.

Once the curtain closes on the political theater surrounding Levin-Reed, at least two alternative proposals backed by Republicans, and a few Democrats, could take center stage. However, Reid has yet to guarantee a vote on either of them, saying their fate depends on the outcome of the Levin-Reed debate.

(There was one indication Monday that Reid might simply interrupt or even pull the Defense bill following the vote on Levin-Reed. Democratic staffers were put on notice that a reconciliation bill regarding student loans could see action as early as Wednesday.)

One proposal by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) would make the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group the policy of the United States, including provisions advising a change in mission and the establishment of diplomatic negotiations with neighboring Middle Eastern states.

The other, offered by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), would require the president to come up with a plan to refocus the mission in Iraq from combat operations to support, training and counterterrorism functions. That plan would have to be delivered by Oct. 16.

But Reid and other Democratic leaders have derided the two plans as giving the president too much leeway to continue with his current strategy in Iraq.

Of course, Reid acknowledged Monday that even the Democratic plan would not actually end the war.

“It certainly winds it down significantly,” Reid said.

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