Saturday, April 28, 2007

Democrats' Next Step on Iraq

Democrats are sounding silly on funding for Iraq - what else is new.

Roll Call
($) reports that Democrats are optimistic that the President will sign the Iraq supplemental that he has made clear he will veto. If you look at why they're optimistic though, they sound like they're out of touch with reality:

Although the White House maintained that Bush has for weeks been comfortable with his decision to veto the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that recent statements by White House spokeswoman Dana Perino that Bush looked forward to working with lawmakers on a compromise following the veto indicate a softening of opposition to Democrats’ position.

“I think if you look at the president’s statements, the last four days have been very promising,” Reid said, adding that “these are buzzwords for saying, at least as far as I’m concerned, that the president has changed his tune.”

So which is more likely: that the President is going to sign the supplemental, or that Harry Reid is grasping at straws?

Meanwhile, CQ says that Democrats are trying to figure out what the next step is:

Republicans have said they support benchmarks for the Iraqi government. But without a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops or a threat of withdrawing funding, it is unclear what — if any — consequences there might be for failure to meet benchmarks.

Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to write a fresh bill that retains the support of their liberal, antiwar contingent while standing a chance of getting signed by President Bush.

The Hill reported recently on John Murtha's plan to move quickly on the next funding bill:

Looking ahead to a post-veto Iraq spending bill, appropriators are looking at either a two-month or five-month bill, and House Defense Appropriations Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) said Thursday he thinks one can be passed in two weeks...

“We want to assess it again in two months,” Murtha said. “Two months sounds good, but it’s complicated. There was a time when I had confidence in the military, but these guys have lied to us so much. They’re so intimidated by the White House.”

Murtha said he expects the bill to have benchmarks, a ban on permanent bases in Iraq and a requirement that the Walter Reed Army Medical Center stay open.

Going forward, Congressional Republicans will effectively have a 'veto' over any final funding measure, since their votes will be necessary to pass a bill. And they're talking about benchmarks:

Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican, said he is open to the idea of blocking further reconstruction or other aid funding to Iraq -- though not military spending -- if the government does not meet such requirements.

Democrats are "going to have to pull out the surrender dates -- clearly those are the most unacceptable items -- as well as the strings on our troops," Putnam said in an interview. "Democrats and Republicans alike would like to see accountability, particularly on the Iraq government, and that can come in the form of benchmarks."

"There could be some kind of bipartisan agreement" on benchmarks, McConnell said, but he declined to say what the consequences would be, if any, for failing to meet them.

"Consequences are a little more divisive," he said.

It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out. It could be that the House and Senate produce bills with significant differences - again. The House could proceed with the 'micro-funding' approach - giving funds for only a few months - and then go to conference with a longer Senate bill. The big question will be whether Democrats try to enact a funding bill, or want to appear that they're trying.

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