Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Senate adds Iraq deadline to spending bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve a $122 billion appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that includes language setting March 2008 as a goal for ending combat operations in Iraq. That sets up a major floor battle over passage of the legislation.

The House will vote on a similar bill by Friday.

Passage is by no means certain. And Democrats are building support through a time-honored method: bribery.

Congress has loaded up President Bush's request for "emergency" spending on the Iraq war with more than $20 billion in "pork" for members' districts.

Money for peanut storage in Georgia, spinach growers in California, menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and even more office space for the lawmakers themselves is included in what has ballooned into a $124 billion war bill.

"This emergency supplemental bill has more ornaments hanging over our many branches of government than the White House Christmas tree," Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said.

While I understand the practical aspect of such largesse -- and while the Democrats promised only to expose pork, not totally eliminate it -- I'm disappointed. I'm especially disappointed by the amount. Surely it doesn't require $20 billion to buy a few dozen votes. If you're going to spend my money on bribes, at least get value for the dollar.

It may all be moot anyway. If the deadline stays in the bill expect Bush to veto it, since it contains a direct challenge to his war authority. And expect that veto to be sustained. We'll then get a whole new squabble over who is playing politics with our soldiers' lives while they try to put together a replacement bill that Bush will sign. It will be a matter of who blinks first: Bush, who needs the money to remain in Iraq, or Congress, which doesn't want to be seen as undercutting the troops. I'd say "expect a compromise", but I'm not sure what that compromise would be.

If it comes to a confrontation, though, expect Bush to win unless Congress is prepared to shut down the Iraq adventure right now, today. They're not, they won't, and Bush will get his money without strings attached. This time.

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