Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Hill: Iraq Vote Hangs by Thread

Couldn't have said it better myself. I've devoted some space in the last week to the difficulty that House Democrats would encounter in trying to pass this Iraq supplemental legislation. I don't think it's Nancy Pelosi's 'fault' that this is so difficult; this is a relatively narrow majority with significant disagreements over how to proceed.

If 80 out of 230 are willing to do whatever it takes to bring the troops home now, and 30 out of that same 230 are unwilling to tie the President's hands in any meaningful way, it's hard to craft an approach that will garner 218 votes.

The big mistake of the House Democrats was in putting forth such bad bill, with so much pork and extraneous provisions. It deserves to go down.

The Hill covers the action:

Facing their first tight vote of the 110th Congress, House Democratic leaders yesterday were scrambling to convince rank-and-file members to back their carefully crafted war-funding legislation.

At least eight Democrats are planning to vote “no” on the Iraq supplemental, scheduled for a Thursday vote. Two more are “leaning no.” Meanwhile, there are over three dozen Democrats who are undecided, according to a survey conducted by The Hill.

The leadership can lose only 15 votes if Republicans stick together, giving leaders little room as they seek to balance the demands of liberals who want a fast withdrawal with those of conservative Democrats, who are wary of setting any kind of timetable for commanders in the field to follow...

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who is a Ways and Means subcommittee chairman, said during a speech in his district over the weekend that he plans to vote no along with a group of 20 other Democrats, according to The Argus newspaper of Fremont, Calif.

“The best way to keep [the troops] safe is to bring them home,” Stark said. “It’s difficult to oppose [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She’s a great leader and working wonders to get this passed, but some things I can’t vote for.”

He added that if the resolution fails, “It won’t look good, like the Democrats can’t get their act together, but that’s OK. We can write a better bill...”

Other lawmakers from Pelosi’s state of California are planning to buck leadership on the funding measure, including Reps. Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and perhaps Maxine Waters...

Pete Stark makes clear that he belongs among those that Dave Obey would characterize as 'smoking something illegal,' when he states that the next bill would be a better one. If it comes down to a choice between the Out of Iraq view, and the continued operation of US forces in Iraq on some basis, the latter option is backed by three-quarters of the House. Plus, the Out of Iraq option will get vetoed.

Stark is clearly throwing Pelosi under the bus, when he promises that the next bill will be even more drastic. This is the best that they will get. I wonder if Pelosi will be able to reach around and pull the knife out of her back.

No. Whether this bill passes or not - and I predicted it would not unless Democratic leaders started to whip the vote - it's dead when the gavel comes down. It won't pass the Senate, and it probably won't even be voted on. So Democratic leaders will be forced to go back to work on a cleaner bill - one which I am sure is already being drafted.

And by the way, apart from placing impossible expectations on Pelosi, the no votes of people like Stark have to be made up from the other end of the spectrum. So for every safe-seat liberal dinosaur who votes against this bill, Pelosi has to get a 'yes' from a Heath Shuler or a Brad Ellsworth - a moderate Freshman Democrat in a marginal seat. They'll be spitting nails when the leadership tells them that they have to vote yes because Stark is voting no.

Those are the kinds of votes that cost majorities.

Update: The Politico reports that Nancy Pelosi is planning to do what I suggest:

Pelosi is privately telling leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus, including California Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, that if the leadership-crafted spending bill, which includes a 2008 withdrawal date, goes down, she'll quickly bring up a "clean" spending bill just for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of the year and seek Republican support to pass it.

Pelosi is not threatening the rebellious Democrats with the "clean bill" alternative, caution Democratic insiders. Instead, she's making sure that these lawmakers know she'll do whatever it takes to pass an emergency funding bill, with or without their support.

Read the whole thing, for an appreciation of the sports knowledge of Jim Clyburn.

No comments: