Senate Republicans blocked a plan on Wednesday to give U.S. troops in Iraq more home leave, defeating a proposal widely seen as the Democrats' best near-term chance to change President George W. Bush's Iraq strategy.
The measure to give troops as much rest time at home as they spent on their most recent tour overseas needed 60 votes to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate; it received just 56 votes, with 44 against.
The plan was strongly opposed by the Bush administration -- Pentagon Secretary Robert Gates called it a backdoor attempt to pull troops off the battlefield in the unpopular Iraq war, and said he would recommend Bush veto it if it passed. A similar bill has passed the House.
Fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a co-sponsor of Webb's plan, said Republican senators were heavily lobbied by the administration against the measure.
"The White House has been very effective of making this a loyalty test for the party," Hagel said after the vote.