WASHINGTON - Senator Harry Reid of Nevada pledged yesterday to try to end the Iraq war even though he lacks the votes to force a troop withdrawal.
The Senate wrapped up its first round of debate on the war this year with little fanfare. After two days of discussion, Republicans refused to advance the bill. As a result, Democrats were forced to shelve proposals by Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin that would have cut off money for combat and demanded a new strategy for defeating Al Qaeda.
The procedural wrangling left majority Democrats defeated, even without a final vote cast on either measure.
"We'll be back," said Reid, the majority leader, 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.
Senate Democrats planned to meet Wednesday to discuss their strategy on the war debate.
"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.
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, for example, said the increase in US troops had helped "decapitate" Al Qaeda in Iraq. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican, said General 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 to terrorists, they said.
"Our men and women in uniform have protected the Iraqi people, scattered Al Qaeda, 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 White House officials also opposed Feingold's proposal that demands a new strategy to defeat Al Qaeda. 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.
Separately, Democrats took on the issue of the war's price tag during a hearing by the Joint Economic Committee. One witness was economist Joseph Stiglitz, whose new book says the combined cost of the war to the federal budget and economy could reach $3 trillion.
Stiglitz factors in hidden and future costs such as veterans disability and healthcare benefits, equipment replacement, interest on money borrowed to pay for the war, and efforts to restore the military to its previous strength.
The committee chairman, Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said, "We can't allow this skyrocketing spending in Iraq to displace other very real domestic and foreign policy priorities."
Republicans noted that there has not been a terrorist attack against the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
"The benefits of preventing a second or third attack on the scale of 9/11 are very high in human and economic terms, and failure to do so would be very costly indeed," said Representative Jim Saxton, a New Jersey Republican.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said fighting terrorism is expensive, and "it is also an investment in the future safety and security of Americans and our vital national interests," he said.