Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Roll Call: Dems Try to Win GOP Votes on Iraq

Roll Call ($) notes that the debate in the House on Iraq as it relates to the supplemental appropriations bill has not really taken shape yet - partly because the Democrats only debuted the language of the bill yesterday. But Democrats are having a hard time winning Republican votes because of the partisan nature of their process:

Still, the aide said most moderates and other war skeptics are likely to stand united with Boehner in opposing the supplemental, primarily because House Democrats have alienated them even as they have tried to include provisions and funding for programs that moderates support.

“They’ve made it so much about the war that all these other things that are sweeteners are being lost in the mix,” said the aide. “They’re also not reaching across party lines to the [war critics] to say, ‘Hey, what will work for you and what might pick up some more [votes]?’”

However, GOP commitments to support the leadership are not completely firm. Republicans acknowledge that if the Democrats’ public relations offensive works, GOP Members may be tempted to jump ship and vote for the bill.

“In order to keep our numbers strong ... Republicans have to do a good job of defining this bill as a bill that weakens our resolve, demoralizes our troops and sends the wrong message to terrorists,” said a senior House GOP aide. “But if we don’t then we could see those [defections] increase.”

Democrats, who could well lose the vote on the supplemental if no Republicans cross party lines, are armed with talking points in an effort both to score political points and, they hope, to put pressure on some wavering Republicans to break ranks with their leadership and support the supplemental.

“You can’t just give lip service to supporting the troops and then give the president everything he wants,” said one House Democratic leadership aide. “For the past four years the president has gotten everything he wants and look where we are.”

Plus, Democrats say their provisions setting “benchmarks” for a full Iraqi government takeover of operations not only mirror what the president laid out in January but also closely track the House GOP’s plan for overseeing the president’s new strategy.

“We’re going to hammer away at the point that the president set these benchmarks,” said the House Democratic leadership aide. “But benchmarks without enforcement are simply suggestions...”

Senate Republicans find themselves in a similar pickle, considering that Senate Democrats have been coalescing around a proposed resolution intended to force the president to redefine the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to support of the Iraqis.

When asked what Senate Republicans’ plan for Iraq would be, one top aide explained that the Conference’s position is to support Bush’s plan. “I don’t think we have a ‘new’ plan. We’re in the middle of it,” the aide said.

Of course, not everyone is completely sold on that plan. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) said last week that he was working to craft an alternative that could possibly unite Republicans...

The House bill at least, will be considered in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

I wonder if that was a strategic decision to reduce attention by putting it up against the first round of NCAA games?

To say that benchmarks without enforcement are suggestions may be true, but it does not follow that writing them into statute is the only way to address the issue. Among other things, the Democrats seem eager to find out what 'Plan B' is in Iraq. But if they really want flexibility, then it's silly to make the benchmarks binding.

This isn't Cortez burning the ships to ensure success. It isn't even about giving incentive to meet targets; it's about forcing a withdrawal.

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