Senate Democrats Fight to Stay Unified Against Bush on Iraq

Senate Democrats fight to stay unified against Bush on Iraq
By Elana Schor
The Guardian


The Senate is headed for a fresh test of Democrats' ability to stay unified against the Bush administration on Iraq, with duelling plans to fund the war on track for votes before Congress leaves town for Thanksgiving.

The House of Representatives approved $50bn for Iraq late Wednesday in a 218-203 vote, linking the money to a binding deadline for the start of US troop withdrawals that has drawn a presidential veto threat. Republicans in the Senate are insisting on 60 votes to approve the Iraq measure, however and minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has offered his own $70bn war bill with no strings attached.

Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said he would keep the chamber in session through the weekend if necessary to ensure a vote on the war funding. Such a delay could compel the four Democratic senators running for president to alter their campaign schedules to stay in Washington.

"We're going to move forward on this legislation this week", Reid said. "We'll either do it the easy way or the hard way."

Another shot of pressure on the four senators running for the Democratic White House nod came courtesy of Russell Feingold, their liberal colleague from Wisconsin and a leading anti-war voice. Feingold gave a speech Thursday morning announcing he would oppose the House Iraq bill as too weak, dissociating himself from liberal Democrats in the House who had cheered the war legislation.

"A 'goal' for redeployment doesn't cut it", Feingold said. "We need a binding deadline."

The Democratic and Republican war proposals could face separate or linked votes in the coming days, with 60 votes needed for either to pass. While some moderate Democrats are likely to back McConnell's $70bn bill, few on Capitol Hill expect that either plan would win sufficient support to pass.

If the delay in war funding persists through the Christmas holidays, the next test will come in early 2008. At that point, the presidential primaries will be reaching a climax as congressional Democrats decide whether to win sufficient GOP votes for war funding by dropping strong anti-war provisions or to stand their ground into the spring.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters Thursday that if the Senate fails to approve the Iraq money, Democrats would not take up another war proposal in 2007. The Bush administration will be able to fund troops in Iraq until February by borrowing from Pentagon money already approved by the president. Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate's third-ranked Democrat, said that funding Iraq through regular Pentagon accounts would be "the first time that the Iraq war, or at least a part of it, will be paid for", referring to the Bush administration's practise of asking for war money outside the regular budgeting process.

Republicans believe they have the upper hand in the Iraq debate in light of reports showing insurgent attacks on the decline in Baghdad. GOP aides circulated reports this week of as many as 3,000 troops on track to return home by Christmas, painting Democrats' efforts as unnecessary.

Democrats have acknowledged that low approval ratings for Congress under their control are due in large part to voter dissatisfaction with the war. By insisting on no more money for Iraq without a mandate to draw down the US military presence, they hope to force Republicans to join their camp or suffer political damage for backing the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

"The American people see their government is not affecting the change they want", Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, said. "They are frustrated and angry. I don't blame them."

Reid Hits "Bully" Bush: "He Damn Sure Is Not Entitled" To A Blank Check For Iraq
The Huffington Post


Reuters reports this afternoon:
Democrats who lead Congress likened President George W. Bush on Thursday to a bully on Iraq war policy and vowed to spend no more on combat without a deadline for bringing U.S. troops home.
"He damn sure is not entitled to having this money given to him just with a blank check," Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrats' Senate leader, told reporters.
"Americans need someone fighting for them taking on this bully we have in the White House," he said.
Reid and other Democrats, who hold slim majorities in both houses of Congress, accused Bush of wanting a free-flow of hundreds of billions of dollars for the Iraq war, all the while being tight-fisted on the home front.
"Every dollar we spend in Iraq comes at the expense of people in America," Reid said.
Also, Reid is threatening to "keep the Senate in session until Sunday in order to vote on a $50 billion stopgap-spending bill for the Iraq War that also would call for a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of next year."
"We'll either do it the easy way or the hard way. It's up to the Republicans," Reid said. "We will have a Sunday vote scheduled. … If they want to give us consent to have a vote earlier, we'll do that. But if they don't, we're not only going to be here, we're going to be here working."
Reid said he would file a motion to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on the House-passed bill on Friday. If Republicans insist on using all the time available to them to debate the cloture motion, the vote would occur Sunday.
Reid also hinted that he would schedule a series of quorum call votes to make sure Senators stay in town through Sunday for the vote.
"There will be some votes," Reid said. "If people think they can leave town and avoid missing votes, they can't. There will be votes during the day [this weekend]. I have the right to call those votes and I will do that."
New Release: Progressives Force Strongest Iraq Vote to Date
Congressional Progressive Caucus


Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, today issued the following statement regarding H.R. 4156, the Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act:

"Since July of this year, 92 members of Congress have written to the President to put him on notice that we will only authorize funding for Iraq that is used to fully fund the safe and orderly redeployment of our troops from Iraq. And over the past week, members of the Progressive and Out of Iraq Caucuses have met with our party's leadership, and we have insisted that any potential funding for Iraq must be incorporated in a redeployment bill, not one that continues to fund the President's occupation. Today, with this legislation, we are seeing the results of our efforts.

"While this bill is not perfect, it is the strongest Iraq bill to date. This is the first time that this Congress has put forth a bill that ties funding to the responsible redeployment of our troops, and it also includes language mandating a start date for the President to begin the redeployment of our brave men and women.

"While we remain disappointed by the end date being a goal no later than December 2008, we see this as legislation that the Senate can and should pass.

"This is a concrete step in the right direction, and an important marker for this Congress to lay down."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.