Thursday, March 15, 2007

Showdown over Iraq? Not this time

The House is racing toward a vote on a bill that would require U.S. troops to leave Iraq by mid-2008. And while Bush is using his bully pulpit to try to forestall that, passage is nearly certain.

The Senate is a different matter, because Democrats have been unable to muster the 60 votes needed for passage. And until it does, nothing changes.

Even if both houses of Congress passed such a bill, the president would almost certainly veto it. So this particular battle appears destined to end not with a bang but with a whimper.

So the battle now shifts to a different front: what restrictions, if any, to place on Bush's latest funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's a different fight in two respects. With the Iraq war resolutions, Congress needed to muster positive action to oppose Bush. With the funding bills, Bush is the one who needs positive action to get the money he wants. So Congressional Democrats have as much leverage as they could want, and the power of the Republican Senate minority to block action is mostly irrelevant.

But that's only if Democrats dare use that leverage. Because the second difference is that any move to cut or restrict funding, unless handled very carefully, could be painted as cutting the legs out from under our troops in the field. Indeed, that could be an actual unintended consequence, not just partisan Republican spin.

So we will now be treated to the sight of Congress trying to use the rather blunt instrument of its funding power to coerce relatively nuanced changes in our Iraq policy.

They could achieve the nuance pretty easily with narrowly crafted amendments, but those amendments would have to get by the Senate Republicans, and then they might face constitutional challenges.

In fact, consider this scenario: A bill passes and the administration challenges the amendments in court. That ties up the funding request until the challenge is resolved. But nobody wants to be seen as treating the troops' welfare as a political football, so Republicans force the Democrats to strip out the offending amendments and pass a "clean" funding bill while the amendments undergo court review.

I await with great curiosity what the Democrats will come up with.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, the Dems plan a "death by a thousand cuts." That would be a huge mistake for them. And while I don't care one iota about the Democrat leadership, I DO care for our soldiers and military and therefore, I hope they fail in this endeavor.

3/18/2007 10:22 PM  

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