In a striking 62-33 vote, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of a resolution authored by Senator Jeff Merkley that called on the President to stick to his 2014 timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan - and accelerate it, if possible.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., its chief sponsor, argued that al Qaeda is stronger in other parts of the world and that nation-building in Afghanistan has gone off track. His measure endorsed Obama's timetable to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014 but pressed for a quicker pace, without specifying how that would be achieved. "It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history," Merkley said during Senate debate.
As Senator Merkley noted on the Rachel Maddow Show (clip below), this is the first time in the last eleven years that either the House or Senate has voted to end the war. And it's in stark contrast to the resolution passed by the House, which calls for an unlimited engagement.
If that 62-vote margin stands out for you, it should. That means that 13 Republicans voted in favor of the resolution. As Merkley noted for Maddow, it was just a few years ago that a resolution calling for a timetable - any timetable - got only 18 votes in the Senate. We've come a long way.
This evening, Senator Merkley appeared on Maddow's show to talk about his amendment:
Over at FireDogLake, David Dayen has excellent coverage - and also shares the text of the resolution itself:
It is the sense of Congress that the President should, as previously announced by the President, continue to draw down United States troop levels at a steady pace through the end of 2014; and end all regular combat operations by United States troops by not later than December 31, 2014, and take all possible steps to end such operations at the earliest date consistent with a safe and orderly draw down of United States troops in Afghanistan.
One note: Senator Wyden was not present for the vote, as he was at OHSU welcoming the newest member of the Wyden family. Congratulations to Senator and Mrs. Wyden.