So much for “supporting our troops”: A bipartisan proposal sponsored by two combat veterans to give exhausted U.S. troops more time between their military deployments overseas was defeated by Republicans in the Senate, the first vote of a two-week congressional debate on Iraq.

Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, sponsored an amendment that could effectively limit the number of troops deemed ready for deployment. The senators, both combat veterans, said the men and women in the military should be given the same amount of time at home that they serve overseas.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said the military had been stretched too thin as the war in Iraq extended into its fifth summer. “Our troops are not machines,” he said, “they are human beings.”

But Republican opponents argued that Congress had no business dictating how long troops would be deployed and suggested Democrats were simply trying to score political points from an unpopular war. “The best thing that we can do for our troops is to win,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “We’re playing yo-yo — political yo-yo — with people’s lives.”

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