Dems Block GOP War Bill Filibuster
Gates slams tactic to delay health bill
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2009 6:17 AM CST
Sen. Robert Byrd, (D-W.Va.) was wheeled in for last night's vote.   (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
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(Newser) – Senate Democrats beat back a Republican attempt to filibuster a huge Pentagon spending bill in a post-midnight session last night. Republican success would have forced the government to seek a new stopgap way to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, delaying health care legislation in the process. Three Republicans broke ranks and voted to cut off debate after the Democrats reached 60 votes.

The maneuver was particularly unusual given the GOP history of accusing Democrats of failing to support the troops; the same bill passed the House Wednesday with the support of 164 of the 175 Republicans. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent minority leader Mitch McConnell an angry letter ahead of last night's session warning that a Republican filibuster would seriously disrupt the military's ability to pay its troops, the Washington Post reports. "It is inconceivable to me that such a situation would be permitted to occur with US forces actively deployed in combat," Gates wrote.