Senate Republicans, using the filibuster, blocked a vote today on an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, to change course in Iraq.
The amendment would have started a redeployment of troops from Iraq beginning 4 months after passage and would complete withdrawal of nearly all US troops from Iraq by April 2008.
The filibuster of the bill is clearly an attempt by the Republicans to 1) avoid being on the record as rubber-stamping Bush's Iraq war policy, and 2) protecting the president from congressional criticism and oversight.
The filibuster happened on the heels of a Republican filibuster of an amendment last week which would have ended the "stop-loss" and extended tours imposed by the Bush administration on troops serving in Iraq. This amendment, offered by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) would have increased rest and "dwell" time for troops being forced to return to Iraq again and again for three and four tours of duty.
The vote on the troop withdrawal amendment garnered 4 Republican votes, however. An increase over the the last Senate vote on troop withdrawal. But the filibuster can only be stopped if 60 Senators vote to "end debate," and 67 votes are need to override a Bush veto.
A similar measure passed last week in the US House, where the antiwar vote grew by five.
There have been a lot of Republicans who are increasingly challenging the Iraq war and hinting they want to see a change in policy, but so far few of them have translated their rhetoric into votes.
It is possible that the rhetoric is merely a political game to appear to differ with Bush in order to soften sharp critiques in their home states and to avoid losing their jobs in the 2008 election without actually doing the right thing.