Senate Sleepover: Democrats Fail to Force Iraq Vote

Republicans successfully blocked a vote Wednesday morning on a bill to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Democrats needing 60 votes under Senate rules to proceed to a vote -- a motion to vote on an amendment calling for withdrawal from Iraq offered by Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island -- failed with 52 supporting the motion, 47 opposed.

The failure of the measure was not a surprise, but neither was it without progress.

The three Senate Republicans who stated their support for the Levin-Reed measure before the vote -- Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- were joined by a fourth vote on the measure, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Every Democrat voted in favor of the measure, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote to "No" so that, in accordance with Senate rules, he will be able to call the amendment back at a later date.

Democrats had pulled out all the stops to bring attention to the vote, holding the Senate's first all-night session since 2003, complete with cots laid out and pillows puffed.

As the moon rose over Washington, D.C., Reid -- frustrated by Republicans using Senate rules to prevent a direct majority vote on the troop withdrawal bill -- held a series of quorum calls, requiring all senators to come to the floor and vote present.

He'd planned to do that all night but -- at the behest of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who expressed concern about some of the older senators -- held off from doing so between approximately midnight and 5 a.m.

In an interview with ABC News during the late-night session, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democratic pressure was working.

"We really feel like we're moving toward that critical mass, that number of votes we need to change the war, and this is about trying to persuade a few more Republicans to join us," he said. Durbin acknowledged that the vote on the Levin-Reed bill Wednesday morning would likely fail but that the sleepover session, which Republicans derided as everything from political theater to a stunt, would have an effect.

"I guarantee you this," Durbin said, "those senators who have already said they are displeased with the president's policy, they are going to go home in August and face a lot of questions: 'Why didn't you vote to start bringing the troops home? If you think the policy is wrong, why didn't you vote that way?'"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the overnight session pointless. "There's no good reason for it," McConnell said. "This is a little bit of Hollywood on Capitol Hill. It's theater -- and not very good theater."

Theater or not, the night was replete with some staging -- most notably with the cots, which a Democratic aide says were used by three-to-four senators to catch some winks. There was also the question, of course, of dinner. Earlier in the week, Reid had pooh-poohed the idea of a pizza pie. "I personally don't like pizza, so that won't be a part of the deal," he said. Reid was resolute on troop withdrawal, but he did ultimately fold on the pizza.

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