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Reid Drops Warner-Levin for House Resolution

As the House opened debate on a no frills, to-the-point resolution disapproving of President Bush's proposed troop surge, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) officially jettisoned his previous support for the much wordier Warner-Levin measure, which the Senate had been considering.

"It's so much more simple: We support the troops, we oppose the surge. Perfect," Reid told reporters after a weekly luncheon with his Democratic caucus.

A man of few words himself, Reid thinks much more highly of the 97-word resolution in the House, a two-paragraph statement, than the more than 1,500-word resolution authored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen John Warner (R-Va.), the committee's top Republican.

It's a tactical reversal by Reid, who more than a week ago threw his public support behind Warner-Levin in the hopes that it could win a broad coalition in the Senate. Instead, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rallied his troops to oppose the resolution unless they were allowed to offer a separate simple GOP-backed resolution that would vow not to do anything to harm troops in the field.

Reid said that he is beginning procedural maneuvers that will likely bring the House resolution to a vote in the Senate on Feb. 26 -- the first day lawmakers return from the weeklong Presidents Day recess.

If Reid sticks to his plan, it will once again put Senate Republicans facing re-election in 2008 in the awkward position of voting on the increasingly unpopular Iraq war. And this vote would come on a simple, easy-to-understand resolution.

Just two Republicans, Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), supported Reid's initial effort to move to a vote on the Warner-Levin resolution (both are up for reelection in 2008). After that vote failed, Warner, Coleman, Collins and four more GOP senators pledged support for a debate and vote on the measure.

So Reid's switch to support the House resolution is a blow to Warner and those six Senate Republicans who had broken from their party to support a debate and vote on Waner-Levin.

Meanwhile, the House opened debate on its simple resolution today with a scheduled vote still likely for Friday. House Republicans have once again been denied the opportunity to offer any amendments or even a simple alternative resolution.

Watching the Senate bog down in a complicated resolution that included 22 "whereas" paragraphs and a dozen "be it resolved" matters, House Democrats went the simple route and economized their use of words.

"They got bottled up in the discussion of the 'whereas' clauses," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of his Senate colleagues.

As a winter storm snarled traffic in the region and forced the federal government to close early, the House hunkered down for a debate that is slated to go till midnight tonight, Wednesday and Thursday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) opened the debate for their respective sides of the aisle today. After the leaders the speaking order has been determined by seniority and committee chairmanships. Democrats are focusing on having military veterans speak.

The most junior speaker early on was Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), who a year ago was a long-shot challenger with a personal story about his own service in the infantry in Baghdad.

"We're against this escalation and Congress will no longer give the president a blank check," he said.

By Paul Kane  |  February 13, 2007; 4:55 PM ET
 
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