Washington, DC — With Republicans in the Senate blocking a debate on President Bush’s plan to escalate the war, Senate Democrats today joined veterans of the war in Iraq to demand the Senate be allowed to vote up or down on the single most important issue facing America today. Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, Senator John Kerry, Senator Jack Reed, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Jon Soltz and Andrew Horne of VoteVets.org, called on Senate Republicans to put the safety of America’s troops ahead of providing political cover for the White House. Over 3,000 have been killed and over 20,000 wounded carrying out President Bush’s misguided policies in Iraq, and the time has come for a real debate before sending as many as 48,000 more young Americans into the middle of a civil war. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are hiding behind process in an effort to avoid discussing the war. By voting against debating it, they have voted to endorse President Bush’s plan for escalation. "We’ve got a lot of work to do to meet the needs of the veterans this war has created and a surge would only make it worse," said Senator Murray. "It is time to have a real debate on how to move this country forward." "This administration wants to ship another 21,000 troops into the middle of Iraq’s bloody civil war even though they’ve never properly equipped the troops that are already over there," said Senator Kerry. "Our military deserves more." "We are in a difficult situation with threats across the globe, with an Army and Marine Corps that is heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are in a situation now in which our readiness is the worst it has been in three decades. This is a situation which requires not only the remedy of money, but it requires accountability. We have to ask serious questions about an administration that would allow this situation to develop, that would tell commanders that they were not going to get the money they needed to provide for the equipment and troops in the field," said Senator Reed. "This administration has tried to run a serious war on the cheap. They have tried gimmicks. They have hidden costs. Republicans should end their filibuster and engage in a meaningful debate about this administration’s Iraq policy." "Let’s be clear: the President’s plan to escalate the war in Iraq is wrong for Iraq and wrong for America," said Senator Whitehouse. "I’m here with my colleagues and these brave veterans today to say that we will not be silenced. If the President refuses to offer the new direction in Iraq that Rhode Islanders and millions of Americans have called for, we must step forward and lead where he will not." "On Monday, the minority of the United States Senate came out forcefully for an escalation of the war in Iraq, clearly ignoring the will of the American people and those of us who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Jon Soltz, Co-Founder and Chairman of VoteVets.org. "Many of those Senators in recent weeks said they were against escalation. Well, talk is cheap, and you don’t support our troops with lip service. In the debate on the Iraq war and an escalation, there are only two sides – with the troops or with the President. You cannot have it both ways. Those Senators who have voted against the troops are now on official warning – vote in line with the will of the troops and the will of the people, or pay the price." Said Andrew Horne, Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org, "Monday’s vote to support escalation of the war in Iraq by the minority was a ‘Profile in Cowardice.’ A lot of Senators have puffed out there chests and spoken boldly about opposing an escalation of the war in Iraq, but when faced with pressure from their leader, buckled and wilted in fear. We Iraq veterans risked our very lives in service to this country, marching head-up into a field of bullets, IEDs, and rockets. These Senators ran scared because of political pressure from their party. It’s clear who the true patriots are in this debate." Last November, the American people voted for dramatic change in Iraq, and it’s time for Republicans in Congress to listen. The American people deserve to know where every member of Congress stands on the President’s plan to escalate the war, and Democrats are committed to holding President Bush accountable for changing course.