Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Congress Must Reject The Toothless Supplemental

Yesterday, congressional leaders relented and removed a timeline for withdrawal from the Iraq war spending bill.

The mainstream media reports today that war critics “handed President Bush a victory.” But this victory for President Bush is a defeat for the American people. While the new supplemental bill will likely pass, members of Congress need to use this opportunity to go on the record once more about their opposition to Bush’s course in Iraq.

With his veto, President Bush rejected a supplemental bill that required a change in course. In a similar vein, Congress should follow Speaker Pelosi’s lead and vote to reject a bill that maintains stay the course. Here’s why:

1) Maintain unity for withdrawal: Pelosi and Reid showed tremendous leadership in creating a bipartisan majority for withdrawal. That unity is now threatened. Those members “who reluctantly have backed House leaders on the Iraq spending bill may defect due to the leadership’s decision to eliminate any timeline for withdrawal from the legislation.” Furthermore, to pass the supplemental, many members favoring withdrawal may ally with conservatives who overhelmingly favor an open-ended
in Iraq.

2) A toothless option: The new bill will likely “incorporate the benchmarks-based provision authored by Sen. John Warner (R-VA.),” but “Bush could waive these requirements if he submits a report to Congress on why he is doing so.” The final bill is also likely to be “stripped of other features that Mr. Bush had previously resisted, including readiness standards that would have prevented troops from being returned to Iraq within one year of serving there or without adequate training and equipment.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Congressional leaders need to live up to their word and continue to fight for a change of course in Iraq. We’ve laid out four possible courses of action for them to take.

But in the meantime, anyone who supports accountability for President Bush’s Iraq policy must reject this blank check for war.

John Aravosis, AmericaBlog: This is one of those inside the beltway observations that you might have missed, but is actually quite important. ThinkProgress, the blog for the Center for American Progress (CAP), the organization run by President Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta, published a stern commentary today in opposition to the Iraq war supplemental agreement negotiated by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

ThinkProgress notes that "this victory for President Bush is a defeat for the American people." They go on to say that congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, "need to live up to their word," and that "anyone who supports accountability
for President Bush’s Iraq policy must reject this blank check for war."

ThinkProgress wouldn't take this bold a position on the most important legislation in America today, in opposition to the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, without the Center for American Progress's approval. And you'd better believe that the Center isn't going to approve of such an important statement of policy without John Podesta personally signing off. The man was the former White House chief of staff - we can assume he doesn't miss details.

Things get even more interesting when you consider that inside the beltway CAP is perceived by many, rightly or wrongly, as a front for Hillary's presidential run. And there is no way, in my view, that CAP's position on the supplemental helps Hillary (who would prefer to remain perpetually obtuse when it comes to Iraq).

Podesta is a big deal in Washington. If he's not happy with this "compromise," to the point of publicly challenging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and putting Hillary in an awfully uncomfortable position, then that means discontent with the way the Democratic party leadership is handling Iraq goes far deeper than a few "crazy" bloggers or the party's supposedly-liberal base.

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