Feet to Fire

Margaret Talev, Renee Schoof and Steven Thomma write for McClatchy Newspapers:

In Washington, Democrats are blaming Republicans for the Senate’s failure so far to vote on a resolution opposing a troop increase in Iraq.

But in the heartland, some voters say such excuses no longer are good enough.

Having banked on the promise that Democrats would force a change of course in Iraq if they won control of Congress, some of the people who helped the Democrats get there are growing impatient.

They’re frustrated that Democrats sank so much energy into a nonbinding resolution then dropped the bipartisan plan of Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., like a hot potato when Republican leaders who support President Bush maneuvered them into a corner.

All the finagling has gotten in the way of a formal debate or vote in the Senate on Bush’s plans for Iraq.

Sometime last week Senator John Tester was on Hardball last week saying that if the Dems couldn’t get a majority for a nonbinding resolution, something more forceful would be even more unlikely. And that makes sense, but …

National polling shows that a majority of Americans support a resolution opposing the troop increase. National independent polling organizations haven’t assessed reaction to the stalled Senate debate.

It’s only about a month into the 110th Congress, and the appropriations bills – where Democrats have the real power to attach strings to military spending if they can muster the will and support – are weeks away from consideration. Still, there’s mounting pressure on Democrats from their base across the country.

At least 22 state legislatures are considering resolutions urging Congress to stop the deployment of more U.S. troops to Iraq, said David Sirota, the Montana-based co-chairman of the Progressive States Network.

Harr Reid says the Senate Dems will “redouble their efforts” when the Senate reconvenes after a recess at the end of this month. Sometime in March, in other words.

The House Dems are vowing to fight harder.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House couldn’t let members go home Feb. 17 for a weeklong recess empty-handed. So the House plans to begin a three-day debate Tuesday and vote on its own resolution opposing the troop buildup.

The Senate Dems seem to think they were outmanevered by the Republicans.

Many Republicans say the Warner-Levin resolution is pointless and that without the force of law it could demoralize the troops. They say the president’s troop increase in Iraq should be given a chance.

So they said they’d block consideration of the resolution unless Democrats also debated a resolution by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would support the troops and take no position on a troop increase.

Democrats saw a trap: If they backed Gregg’s resolution, then didn’t get 60 votes on Warner-Levin, the only formal statement out of the Senate would voice no opposition to the troop increase. If they rejected Gregg’s, opponents would run ads accusing them of hurting the troops.

Their decision: Hold off on a formal debate.

But ya know what, folks? With the war as unpopular as it is, and Bush as unpopular as he is, what the hell are the Dems afraid of? This just plain makes no sense.

I think they should make an announcement that they tried to compromise with the Republicans, but the Republicans are ducking the issue of Iraq, so they should go back to Senator Feingold’s resolution and vote on that, and let the GOP be damned if they don’t allow it to pass.

It’s time to hold Dem feet to fire. Call, write, fax, email every Dem on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (remember to be nice to Russ Feingold). Call, write, fax, email Harry Reid and your own senators, whoever they are, if they’re Dems. Tell ’em to crank it up and fight.