JENNIFER TALHELM Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON
A group of moderate senators’ hopes of making the Iraq Study Group recommendations the U.S. strategy in Iraq were dashed today when Democrats abruptly stopped work on a war-spending bill. Senators had waged an all-night debate on an amendment to the war bill that would have required President Bush to start bringing home troops from Iraq within 120 days. But by morning, Democrats failed to muster enough votes to end a filibuster. Although the moderates’ measure sponsored by Sens. Ken Salazar, Dcolo., and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, among others had not yet been considered, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dnev., suspended all work on the bill rather than continue on. The Senate likely won’t take up the issue again until September. Several of the Iraq Study Group amendment’s sponsors said they were disappointed in Reid’s decision. “The Senate should have been allowed to debate the truly bipartisan amendment ... that could give our military leaders and the nation the best option for improving our prospects in Iraq in a way that can be supported by most Americans,” another backer, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a statement. In addition to Domenici and Bennett, Salazar’s Iraq Study Group amendment had picked up support from about a dozen senators from both parties as an alternative both to pulling troops and staying the course. Colorado Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, had introduced a companion bill in the House. It’s unclear whether Udall’s bill could make it to the Senate. The Iraq Study Group is a bipartisan group of political and policy experts that in December recommended a series of benchmarks Iraqis would have to meet for continued U.S. support. If all the steps were followed, the panel said, most troops could begin leaving by next spring. Unlike other Democratic proposals, Salazar’s did not set a firm date to pull troops from Iraq. Salazar said the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations were the most “coherent” and “apolitical” alternative to Bush’s current strategy. “I have always thought we needed to work together to provide a united move forward,” he said. But Reid, an ardent supporter of pulling troops from Iraq, made no secret that he thought Salazar’s proposal was too weak. By pulling the bill from the Senate floor, Reid ensured that Salazar’s amendment wouldn’t get a vote, for now.