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Senate Democratic leader pledges to continue trying to end the war, despite lacking votes
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    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged on Thursday to continue trying to end the Iraq war even though he lacks the votes to force a troop withdrawal.
    The Senate was on track to wrap up its first round of debate on the war this year with little fanfare. After two days of discussion, Republicans refused to continue. As a result, Democrats were forced to shelve proposals by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have cut off money for combat and demanded a new strategy for defeating al-Qaida.
    The procedural wrangling left majority Democrats defeated, even without a final vote cast on either measure.
    ‘‘We’ll be back,’’ said Reid, D-Nev., noting that this spring the Senate will debate whether to approve an additional $100 billion for the war. The Senate also will consider legislation to rein in contractor abuse, he said.
    ‘‘There’s a lot to do on Iraq because it’s such a big hole we’re dumping our money in,’’ he told reporters.
    Earlier this week, Republicans agreed to extended debate on Feingold’s legislation — not because they supported the measures, but because they said the debate would offer the opportunity to promote progress in Baghdad.
    The hours of Senate speeches that followed included many by allies of President Bush who said Democrats had been wrong about last year’s troop buildup.
    Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, for example, said the increase in U.S. troops had helped ‘‘decapitate’’ al-Qaida in Iraq. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, had led no less than a ‘‘revolution’’ in counterinsurgency warfare.
    Ordering troops home now would hand the country back over to terrorists, they said.
    ‘‘Our men and women in uniform have protected the Iraqi people, scattered al-Qaida, deterred militias and helped create an environment that has led to progress, not only at the tactical level but in government and in reconciliation as well,’’ said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
    Republicans and the White House also opposed Feingold’s proposal demanding a new strategy to defeat al-Qaida. Under his bill, the strategy could not rely on the deployment of active-duty combat units more than once every two years.
    The White House said the president would veto the bill because the mandate ‘‘imposes constraints that may conflict with the considered judgment of our military commanders’’ and impinges upon his executive authority.

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