The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to reject a measure that would cut off money for American combat operations in Iraq after March 31, 2008.
The legislation, proposed by Democratic Senator Russel Feingold and other two other Democrats, was rejected by a vote of 29-67, short of the necessary 60 votes to advance under Senate rules.
Forty-seven Republicans, 19 Democrats and Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman voted against the measure.
The legislation required President George W. Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. forces within 120 days after it becomes law, and after March 31, 2008, all funds would be cut off for the deployment of troops in Iraq, with three exceptions -- targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorists, security of U.S. facilities and personnel, and training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.
Among those Democrats opposing the legislation was Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
"We don't want to send the message to the troops" that Congress did not support them by cutting funding, he said.
The proposal was one of the four amendments on which the Senate was scheduled to vote on Wednesday, with two of them proposed by Democrats and two by Republicans, to gauge support for what steps should be taken for the war, which is now in its fifth year and has taken the lives of over 3,300 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
A second Democratic amendment would give the Bush administration what it has asked for the war but call for withdrawing U.S. troops this year and setting March 31 next year as a goal of completing the pullout. But the proposal, which would punish the Iraqi government if it failed to meet political benchmarks, was withdrawn because of a veto threat from the White House.
The Senate failed to pass a Republican proposal, sponsored by Senator John Warner, that would establish political and security goals for the Iraqi government. If those goals were not met, the proposal would require the Bush administration to cut U.S. reconstruction funds to Iraq.
The Senate did approve a nonbinding resolution, which expressed the need to pass a war spending bill by Memorial Day.
The U.S. House passed legislation last week funding the Iraq war on two separate, 60-day installments.
The Senate was also scheduled to vote on a resolution Wednesday to clear the way for talks with the House and the White House on a final spending bill to fund U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Democratic-led Congress passed war spending bill last month, which would have required the Bush administration to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by Oct. 1, with a goal of ending U.S. combat operations there by next March, but the bill was vetoed by Bush.