Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dems Turning Iraq Supplemental into Veto Bait

Roll Call ($) reports that House Democratic leaders haven't finished rounding up their cats:

House Democratic leaders were still tinkering with a $100 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill Tuesday, but largely have settled on a measure that puts several conditions on the president’s use of the money while seeking to draw support from wavering Democrats and Republicans by allowing votes on multiple amendments and including money for veterans’ care.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of letting them have a vote on an amendment to fund only the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but not further combat missions.

Hoyer did not propose a quid pro quo that would have progressives voting for the final bill once their amendment fails, as is likely, said Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), who attended the meeting.

Instead, Woolsey said Hoyer simply asked, “‘How many Members do you think could vote [for] the amendment and then for the supplemental?’ and we said there would be some. ... There are many that are going to vote ‘yes’ and ‘no...’”

Capuano said some Democrats have complained that a vote on the amendment would send mixed messages and expose the fractures between those who support continuing to fund the war with conditions and those who want to pull out now... [Duh - the Editor]

“It’s a legitimate concern that you don’t want to chop up the Caucus too much,” Capuano said...

[Rep. Jim Moran] said the principles laid out in Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) plan to require the president to certify that troops have the equipment and training they need before deployment would be included, along with the ability for the president to waive such requirements and language intended to make sure that the Iraqi government meets the benchmarks for taking over that Bush laid out in January...

Hoyer also acknowledged that Democrats are inclined to include language regarding the possible expansion of military actions into Iran.

“I expect language on Iran in the bill,” Hoyer said, noting that the president must seek Congressional approval to declare war. “I think it’s the only constitutional position that Congress ought to take...”

While continuing to court fence-sitting liberal and conservative Democrats, Democratic leaders also were beginning to put pressure on Republicans, saying the bill had been slightly refocused on providing troops with equipment and training as well as on veterans’ medical care — including money to shore up Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, whose alleged substandard outpatient care has caused an uproar on Capitol Hill.

“Republicans are starting to feel the pressure on the supplemental and after all the posturing, they’ll have a decision to make — support the troops or support the president,” said one well-placed House Democratic aide. “There are some things in there that are going to be very, very tough for Republicans to vote against...”

Even House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) made some noises Tuesday that suggested Republicans are reluctant to vote against the supplemental, while also taking some partisan shots.

“We want to work with Democrats to find a way to support troops on the ground,” Boehner said at a Tuesday morning press conference. But even as the Minority Leader called for bipartisanship, he asserted that the Democrats’ “goal is to defund the war in Iraq. ... We are not going to put handcuffs on our soldiers and our generals in the field...”

HotAir picks up on the Politico article on this, which suggests that Hoyer and Pelosi are looking for more of a quid pro quo:

House Democratic leaders, seeking a compromise with several dozen anti-war lawmakers in their own caucus, are considering a vote on a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq before considering $98 billion in new military spending.

In return for the vote, the leaders want the 50 to 75 anti-war Democrats to support the wartime funding, if their proposal fails.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leaders face an uprising from liberal Democrats opposed to the wartime supplemental. If they allow a House floor vote to set a withdrawal date, it would be the first such vote in either the House or the Senate since the Democrats took control of Congress in January. And it would mark a new phase in the political struggle over the conflict…

These [anti-war] Democrats opposed the war since its start and, despite the new Democratic majority in the House, are not at all eager to vote for the new war funds. Supporting the money, they argue, would give them “ownership” of the war along with Bush and the Republicans in Congress.

Roll Call notes that Boehner appears 'reluctant to vote against the supplemental,' which is true as far as it goes. It certainly sounds to me as if he is ready to however, and they also quote at least one Republican who supported the Democratic non-binding resolution, but who sounds reluctant to vote for a supplemental with strings attached.

Roll Call also reports that the Democrats are going to include language on Iran - perhaps the Jim Webb/Walter Jones/Harry Reid language that would preclude the President from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization. If so, they will have a hard tome getting more than a dozen or two Republican votes. That would require them to get 50 or more votes from the Out of Iraq caucus. That will be hard to do - and the margin for error will be very low because they will lose some votes from the Blue Dogs.

There's no question that Boehner can make Nancy Pelosi's job very hard here. The Democrats are fooling themselves if they think they can get many Republican votes for a bill that undercuts the President on both Iraq and Iran, just by increasing funding for veterans' health care.

And as I have noted, Joe Lieberman has been awfully silent about the goings-on in the House. But his opposition would make these provisions a dead letter in the Senate - and I bet he would oppose a bill loaded up like this one appears it will be.

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