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In Washington this week, there was much talk of "redeployment" and "redefining" the Iraq "mission," as lawmakers debated the fine print on a whopping $650 billion defense bill for 2008 that will include plenty of money for the occupation to go on. The Congressional Research Service reports that war costs now exceed $12 billion per month, up more than a third from previous estimates.

Intelligence officials testified before Congress this week that the situation had shown "no improvement" and an interim progress report mandated by Congress found that none of the White House's "benchmarks" for progress in matters political, economic, or military have been met. That hasn't stopped the White House from spinning its own report; none of the goals had been met, they acknowledge, but they also touted at least some "progress" in 8 out of 18 issue-areas.

More prominent Republicans began making noises about jumping from the SS Bush as Olympia Snowe (ME) joined Richard Lugar (In), Pete Domenici (NM) and George Voinovich (OH) in calling, at least in theory, for at least a troop "draw-down." It's not much, but it is enough to make the White House jumpy about losing support from within their own party. Senior administration officials, including Condi Rice, reportedly shuttled back and forth to Capitol Hill to shore up support among wavering Republicans.

Consistent with the pattern, it seems to have worked; Lugar, Voinovich and Domenici all supported a filibuster on Tuesday that blocked Virginia Democrat Jim Webb's proposal to guarantee U.S. troops get adequate time at home between deployments.

Meanwhile, it's getting tough to sort out the various proposals for "withdrawal" that the Dems are falling all over themselves trying to get into the spotlight. Spencer Ackerman at TalkingPointsMemo runs down the competing proposals. None of them have enough votes to pass. The argument is that there is political rather than legislative value in bringing the measures before Congress, and that these votes are part of a larger strategy to unify Dems from across the party's ideological spectrum while splitting off Republican legislators and isolating the White House. Color us unconvinced.

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