Washington, D.C. In an about-face, Senate Republicans on Tuesday agreed with Democrats to advance an anti-war bill because they said the debate would give them time to hail progress in Iraq.
The change of heart came after months of blocking similar measures. But unlike most of last year, security conditions in Iraq have improved, and Republicans say they now feel they have the upper hand on the debate.
"We welcome a discussion about Iraq," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared.
The measure, by Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, would cut off money for combat after 120 days. It had been expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle and move ahead.
But after Republicans agreed in a private meeting that the debate could help make their case, the Senate voted 70-24 to begin debating it in earnest.
Aides said a final vote could come later this week, but may be pushed into next week.
The White House said the president would veto such a measure.