WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal to guarantee all troops a month home for every month they are deployed into a combat zone.

The Senate fell four votes short of the 60 needed to end debate on the topic, preventing Democratic leaders in the chamber from bringing the issue up for a full vote and effectively forcing them to drop it.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the proposal “critical for the strength of our military and the well-being of our troops” and chastised Republicans for blocking the amendment.

The one-for-one proposal was introduced last week by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., as a way to ease the burden of deployments on troops and their families. Proponents said the measure would help preserve troop morale and health, while opponents said it unfairly restricted military planners.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates introduced a new dwell-time policy requiring that units spend a minimum of 12 months home after 15-month deployments overseas.

Currently, the Army is using that 15-12 ratio, while Marine Corps unit deployments are typically seven months at home after seven months downrange.

The dwell-time proposal was part of the Senate’s debate over the $649 billion 2008 defense authorization bill, which sets military funding priorities and limits for next year.

The House passed its version of the bill in the spring. The Senate is expected to approve its draft by the end of the week and begin deliberations with the House on a compromise measure.

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