The House Democrats were not going to give up completely, and simply approve Bush's Iraq request with no strings attached, were they? Not according to Roll Call:
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) late Tuesday afternoon tried to address their Democratic colleagues’ concerns about how they intend to handle the expected $100 billion Iraq War spending bill, including putting the onus on President Bush to ensure troops are prepared and equipped before being deployed.
“We have to raise the standard of accountability,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said following a meeting of House Democrats, adding that the criteria would be applied to both Bush and the Iraqi government under the Democratic proposal.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said additional funds could be dedicated to training and equipment for those troops, including National Guard personnel, who are assigned to the war.
“We’re talking about focusing more of the funding on readiness,” Pelosi said. The Speaker did not indicate whether those funds would be shifted from other areas in the spending bill or if overall spending would be increased.
While the proposal echoes a plan unveiled by Murtha last week via an anti-war Web site — that plan would use Congressional control over federal funds to require readiness guidelines are closely followed, and make it more difficult for Bush to execute his current war strategy, including an increase in troop levels — Democratic leaders insisted the strategy does not include more stringent rules.
“All we’re saying is follow the policy that’s in place,” Pelosi said.
But Democrats did not indicate how they plan to enforce those guidelines — stating only that they will not cut off funding for troops in Iraq — asserting that the majority will continue to discuss those possibilities. The spending bill is expected in full committee next week and on the House floor the week of March 12.
“You’ll see that as the language becomes apparent,” Emanuel said. However, an aide to the Speaker suggested that the bill could include provisions requiring the president to sign off each time existing guidelines for readiness are waived, something the commander in chief is not currently required to do.
“We would like to see the war ended, but it’s the president’s war,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said...
This half-a-loaf strategy is an attractive solution for Democrats, because it continues to leave the ball in the President's court. He appears likely to get the funds he desires, but he will need to 'take responsibility' for deploying troops that do not meet readiness guidelines.
And by the way, the quote from Ms. Pelosi's spokesperson gives a stunning demonstration of today's political climate. Democrats continue to assert that this is 'the President's war.'
I can't decide whether it's more accurate to call that BS or wishful thinking. Whatever divisions exist in the country, we are fighting this war, and the military and the government that are fighting it must be funded. It is the Congress - under Democratic control - that does the funding. The Democrats are eager to use their authority to change the terms on which the war is fought. Ergo, it is the Democrats' war too. If the Democrats want this to be 'the President's war,' they'll need to start by shutting up and writing blank checks. And they should also tell the American people they elected the wrong guys in November, because they don't want to lead.
Update: The Washington Post covers this as well. Their picture of where this stands is somewhat different. In the Post rendition, it seems that no two Democrats agree on their next course of action:
More than a week after Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) detailed plans that he said would curtail deployments to Iraq, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders said the coming debate on war funding would be about forcing the administration to live up to existing military requirements. War funds would be redirected toward equipment, such as night-vision goggles, that some troops lack. Democrats would insist on giving combat troops a year off between deployments, and they could impose restrictions on Pentagon policies that extend combat tours.
They would also condition some war funding on benchmarks for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).
But some Democrats, especially those from conservative districts, remain wary. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (Va.), who supports the plan, said many Democrats "want to make sure this is still President Bush's war. It's his war to manage, and it's his war to end."
Members of Congress are not "the only ones conflicted," said Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.). "The country's conflicted. We don't want to do the same thing we've been doing for 3 1/2 years that hasn't worked, but we don't want to pull the plug."
I guess it is inherently confusing when you want to impose restrictions on how the President uses money, but don't want to take any responsibility for the consequences, and don't want to be accused of restricting war fighting. The Democrats are pulling in a dozen directions right now.
I have to think that the Roll Call article is closer to accurate, if only because the Democrats still seem to believe that their paramount political goal is not to be accountable for anything at all.