Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pelosi Herding Cats on Iraq

The House of Representatives will soon consider the President's supplemental request for Iraq war funding. Passing the bill is turning out to be quite a challenge however, as they try to balance the need to fund the troops, the desire to end the war, their hopes to prevent an attack on Iraq, their effort to address Hurricane Katrina, and a few other odds and ends.

Roll Call ($) sums up the challenge:

However, one House Democratic leadership aide indicated that the bill most likely would include a provision requiring the president to report to Congress on whether the benchmarks he set out for the Iraqi government are being met. And there were other indications Monday that House Democratic leaders were considering language requiring the president to seek Congressional approval for any military action against Iran...

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said he believes “that on the core pieces, we have a Caucus consensus.”

He said Democrats broadly agree that any “conditionality” on the president’s use of funds should be focused on getting the Iraqi government to take over many of the operations currently being performed by U.S. soldiers.

Emanuel said a majority of Democrats believe that more money should go to the war in Afghanistan because “that’s where al Qaida is.” In fact, several Democratic sources indicated that appropriators had decided to shift some funds from the Iraq conflict to the re-emergent terrorist elements in Afghanistan...

Additionally, the White House threw a wrench into the works Monday by indicating that it would send up a modified request for war funds as early as today, according to The Associated Press [See the next post for more on that - the Editor]. The AP noted that the new request likely would be about $2 billion more than the nearly $94 billion for the Iraq War requested earlier this year and would specifically fund the president’s controversial plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

Still, Democratic leaders appeared to be getting a little breathing room within the Caucus on Monday, as liberal Members began indicating that the House leadership could mitigate defections from the left by allowing a vote on an amendment to require the Pentagon to use the $100 billion to withdraw troops from Iraq and not for further combat missions.

One knowledgeable House Democratic aide said members of the Progressive Caucus might be more inclined to vote for the war-funding bill if they first were allowed to vote against such funding, considering that the amendment to fund a withdrawal is almost certain to fail...

Meanwhile, conservative Democrats, particularly those in the Blue Dog Coalition, may be willing to swallow some limits on the president — with a waiver — if the leadership also adopted the language of their manifesto for providing accountability for the ballooning costs of the war.

Blue Dogs have introduced a resolution that would demand periodic reports from the Defense Department inspector general and the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction on how the nearly $400 billion already appropriated for the war has been spent.

The resolution also calls for the creation of a commission to conduct ongoing studies of government contractors in Iraq, insists that war funding should be conducted through the regular appropriations process, and asks the Bush administration to condition any further U.S. “financial, military and political resources” on the Iraqi government taking over police duties in country...

With Republican leaders threatening to whip against the supplemental if it includes any sort of funding restrictions — even those with a presidential waiver — Democrats can afford to lose only 15 of their own on the vote or risk seeing the bill fail in a highly public House floor vote.

In the meantime, Democratic leaders cautioned that language limiting the president on Iraq was not the only issue unresolved on the bill, given that Democratic leaders decided to include additional funding for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast, for agriculture disasters and for a shortfall in poor children’s health care programs...

Giving the Out of Iraq caucus a vote on withdrawal is a smart move by the leadership; it will help keep the peace within the caucus, and pass the bill. However, it will lead to a new round of recriminations on the Left, as anti-war activists get a fresh new list of Democratic Members of Congress that they hate. We'll see if DailyKos is as excited about Heath Shuler and the rest of the Blue Dog Freshmen when they vote very specifically and directly to fund the war in Iraq.

Further, the unaddressed question in all this is what the Senate will do with the bill. It is entirely possible (especially given the silence from this guy) that any contentious language on waivers, reports and Iran will be stripped out. Then House Democrats will have taken a difficult vote for no reason - which won't make them any happier with the House leadership, or with the Democrats on the other side of the Iraq debate.

Well, if you like sausage you don't want to see how it's made...

Update: The Politico also covers this story, and paints a different picture:

Liberals Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, want to end the war now, so they want a date certain for a withdrawal or pullout or "strategic redeployment," and they want it in the Iraq supplemental or they won't vote for it. "They figure that we won the election on a promise to end the war, and they want to live up to that promise," said a senior House Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's a tough place the speaker is in right now, but we'll work all this out."

Pelosi has a bit of a problem here. If the Democratic leadership puts a date certain for withdrawal in the bill, there's a chance that enough Blue Dogs Democrats would defect and vote with Republicans, meaning the bill could down for defeat outright. While that might suit anti-war lawmakers and groups. the political consequences could be disastrous for the party. It would end the Iraq war by default since there would be no more money for combat operations, and Republicans would punish the Democrats for years over it.

Don't bet on this outcome. The Iraq supplemental will pass, with some votes (at least) from the Out of Iraq caucus.

Much as they hate the war, the Democrats will fund it.

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