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Group of Republican senators vows to force a vote on troop surge

WASHINGTON—Seven Senate Republicans on Wednesday blasted their own leaders and Democrats for stalling the debate on the resolution to oppose President Bush's plans to send more troops to Iraq, and they vowed in a letter to push through a vote one way or another.

"The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country," said the letter signed by Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and George Voinovich of Ohio. "We will explore all of our options."

Democrats took notice but weren't convinced that the letter was much more than an attempt by the Republicans to protect their re-election prospects.

The group, led by Warner, a respected military veteran, includes moderates and members who are facing re-election in 2008.

Warner was the driving force behind the bipartisan resolution that Democrats had attempted to debate and vote on this week. The resolution opposes Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, but says that it would be wrong to cut off funding for troops on the ground.

But on Monday, Republican leaders used a procedural vote to block debate on the resolution unless Democrats agreed to also consider a proposal by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. That proposal opposes cutting off funding for troops but takes no position on the troop increase.

All of the Senate Republicans except for Coleman and Collins voted with their leadership to block the debate.

Democrats refused to consider Gregg's resolution because they saw it as a trap: If they opposed it, election opponents would accuse them of hurting U.S. soldiers. If they supported it and the Warner resolution failed, Gregg's resolution would be the only formal statement from the Senate and it would be silent on the troop increase issue. So the debate deadlocked before it began.

In the letter Wednesday, the senators said their Monday votes "should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve" to advocate against a troop increase.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, said Reid "gave Senator Warner and the others a chance to vote for their own resolution on Monday, but only two of them chose to do so. Hopefully this letter signifies that the others have had a change of heart and will be willing to vote for their own resolution in the future."


(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.