a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 24th, 2007

If by nothing else, the supplemental bill’s 218-212 passage was justified by Bush’s nettled response, making Congress seem more like a malfunctioning ATM machine than a co-equal branch of government:

“These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen,” the president said. “The Democrats have sent their message. Now it’s time to send their money.”

“Now it’s time to send their money.” No, now it’s time for grownups to take back some control of the mess you made. I’m with Nancy Pelosi on this:

“The American people have lost faith in the president’s conduct of this war,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in bringing an end to a charged debate on the House floor. “The American people see the reality of the war; the president does not.”

…and Patrick Murphy:

“To those on the other side of the aisle who are opposed, I want to ask you the same questions that my gunner asked me when I was leading a convoy up and down Ambush Alley one day,” Mr. Murphy said. “He said, ‘Sir, what are we doing over here? What’s our mission? When are these Iraqis going to come off the sidelines and fight for their own country?’ ”

That is, setting timelines is likelier to concentrate minds in Baghdad than Bush’s open-ended commitment to occupying the country as long as he sees fit.

The immediate problem, of course, will be the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can probably bottle up the Senate version of the bill by preventing cloture on debate. Good news: conservacrat Ben Nelson (D-NE) has indicated he’ll go along with Reid this time. Bad news: Jim Webb (D-VA) is apparently against using funding to control the prosecution of the war. And at any rate, there apparently still aren’t GOP senators willing to break ranks and take steps to end the war. But as hilzoy (“Obsidian Wings”) argues in the comment section of her post about the passage of the supplemental bill:

If it fails in the Senate, and that’s because of a filibuster, then the question will be: are the Republicans willing to let the appropriations bill come to a vote, or will they stall forever? And for us: if they refuse to yield, do we blink, and pass a different bill?

Still a game of chicken.

Meanwhile, I’m relieved to see signs that the progressive/blue dog Democratic split in the runup to this vote seems to not be resulting in punishment for leaders of the the progressive group — who at the last moment encouraged enough reluctant members to vote for the supplemental that it passed by the narrow margin it did. Yesterday, reporting for TPM, Greg Sargent wrote :

This morning, when Dems met behind closed doors to get ready for the vote, members gave a standing ovation to the three key liberals who helped make this bill possible: Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters. The kicker: All three were preparing to vote against the bill, and everyone there suspected as much — but the three were applauded anyway.

As eRobin (“Fact-esque”) wrote, this was a tough choice in a situation designed by others to be that way:

Iraq isn’t called a “quagmire” because the word is fun to say. We are, thanks to a few very evil men, stuck in a lethal, immoral, intractable situation with no good options. No. Good. Options.

Great credit to the progressive leaders like Lee, Woolsey, and Waters, who fought for their views, but compromised with their allies in the end. And great credit to all House Democrats for moving this debate forward. They’re honoring their obligation to the voters who elected them: to do everything they can in Congress to end the war as quickly as the balance of votes in Congress allows them to.

It’s time to weigh in with them: if Bush can’t live with even minimal readiness requirements, or with a schedule that bends over backwards to echo his own purported plan for Iraq, then it’s clear who’s “supporting the troops” and who isn’t, if it wasn’t already.

It should also be said that we didn’t put troops in Iraq just so that we could support them, we put them in on behalf of goals that were largely lies. What little could be accomplished there, has been: there were no WMD, Saddam is out. Our continued presence does nothing to forestall what will come for Iraq, it just exacerbates the situation there. It’s long past time to go.

If this supplemental bill stalls because of Republican intransigence, Democrats shouldn’t concede the argument. Not at all. Instead, we should all be prepared — this time — to argue an even more forceful case for more oversight, for tighter readiness requirements, and for speedier withdrawal timetables. I hope Democrats will make Bush wish he’d supported this supplemental bill instead of the one he eventually has to sign.

NOTES: “nettled response” — “House Passes Iraq Pullout Timetable,” Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, 3/24. Pelosi and Murphy quotes via “House, 218 to 212, Votes to Set Date for Iraq Pullout”, Jeff Zeleny, New York Times, 3/24. Finally, Ben Nelson’s change of heart was reported by Bloomberg News, among others: Senate Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who voted March 15 against a Democrat-drafted resolution calling on Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq said he now favors this new version because it adds benchmarks he requested. “It changes the whole complexion of it,” Nelson said yesterday.

3 Responses to “Light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe.”

  1. Nell Says:

    Wow. If even Ben Nelson is willing to go along, maybe Webb will, too.
    A day in the garden has made me hopeful and calm. Can’t last… ;>

  2. eRobin Says:

    This really is fascinating. Bottling up the bill is the same as defunding the war, no?

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I should support that Ben Nelson item with a link, I’m pretty sure I saw it yesterday or the day before. I plan to put my usual notes acknowledging reporters for the various stories, I’ll link to a Nelson story then.
    eRobin, Nell has a better handle on this than I do, but “bottling up” would be, in effect, +/- the same as voting down a Senate supplemental bill. That, in turn, would be continuing to not provide additional funding, so in a way yes, it’s defunding, but not for long. Still, “Republicans Defund Iraq War” will be an amusing way to tell the story on Monday or Tuesday.

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