Tomorrow the House is going to vote on a bill that would end most military involvement in Iraq by the end of August 2008.
My understanding is that the House will be voting on one of Bush’s “emergency supplement” bills, which is how he likes to fund the war rather than through the regular budget. The bill would provide for $124 billion that will mostly go to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus “extra money tucked in for veterans’ health care, hurricane recovery and farm aid,” writes Renee Schoof of McClatchy Newspapers. But the House Dems are attaching conditions.
Briefly, the bill would
Add $1.2 billion more for the war in Afghanistan than Bush requested; $3.4 billion for veterans’ and military health care; $2.5 billion to prepare troops in the United States for combat; $6.4 billion for hurricane recovery; and $3.7 billion for agricultural assistance. Require that the Iraqi government meet benchmarks that Bush outlined in January for quelling the violence. Redeployment would be sped up if the benchmarks weren’t met. Some American forces would remain in Iraq to train Iraqis, protect American diplomats and military forces, and fight terrorists. Require that the president explain his decision if he sends any troops into combat who aren’t fully trained, rested and equipped.
It’s not a de-funding bill, but the way it was talked about on some of the cable news shows this afternoon made it sound as if it was. I finally figured out that the Republicans are warning that, since Bush will certainly veto the bill, this would delay funds going to the troops.
And that would be proof that Bush doesn’t support the troops, I say. He’s the one who waits until the last minute and then hits up Congress for “emergency supplement” bills. Why wasn’t this stuff in the budget? OK, I know the answer. First, keeping much of the Iraq War costs out of the budget helps the Bushies lie about balancing the budget. Second, it’s harder to trace where off-budget monies go.
Other Republicans whine that Congress shouldn’t “micromanage” the Commander in Chief. First, the bill is hardly “micromanagement.” And I say Bush has had four years to manage the war, and he hasn’t. It’s time for someone else to provide some direction, since he clearly can’t do it.
Tonight there are predictions the bill will pass. The magic number is 218 votes. The magic number for a similar measure in the Senate is 60 votes, which is probably out of reach.
Immediately after the 2006 election, pro-war Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D) told the New York Times that she hoped Democrats played a “kabuki dance” with progressives â€“ pretending to be one thing, then doing another. It was an insulting comment â€“ but the shrewd use of a “kabuki dance” should not be discounted as a critical political tool. And thatâ€™s exactly whatâ€™s going on with the supplemental on behalf of progressives.
Right now, Obeyâ€™s Iraq bill is being painted in the media as something of a moderate compromise. That has led some organizations on the left to label the bill as a full-on sellout. But as progressives, we must ask ourselves: Would we rather own the public debate, or wield real power?
Here are the facts: The Iraq supplemental bill begins redeploying troops by March 2008, and completes a full withdrawal by September 2008. You can label the bill anything you like. For all I care, you can label it the Iraq War Indefinite Continuation Act and Fox News can run slick graphics cheering on the legislation as the greatest escalation of militarism since Genghis Khan. But as long as that language is in there and the bill passes, then at the end of the day, real, binding power has been wielded to end the war.
You might remember Rep. Obey from the YouTube video, in which he became exasperated at a hopelessly uninformed “activist” and called her a “liberal idiot.” The activist preferred another bill that would have provided money only for a withdrawal. That bill was proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee, who I understand has agreed to vote for Obey’s bill tomorrow.
David Sirota continues,
Congressional progressives now face the same pangs that come with evolving into a movement with majority power, rather than serving merely as contrarian voices in the minority. They are undoubtedly being pressured by a small but very vocal group of organizations that make up whatâ€™s known as the Professional Protest Industry â€“ organizations that exist solely to see the world as they want it, not as it is (a note: not everyone working to kill the supplemental is part of the Professional Protest Industry – many folks just legitimately believe stopping the supplemental is the best way to go, and I absolutely respect that even though I think it is the wrong strategy – however, there is no denying that there is a loud, vocal Professional Protest Industry – check out International ANSWER or the LaRouchies for a few examples). As a matter of existence, this industry wants – no, needs â€“ to prioritize the public debate over wielding real legislative power, because that is the niche that makes them relevant. That these organizations have attacked some of the most steadfastly progressive groups for not being antiwar “enough” shows exactly where their priorities are.
But lawmakers are not professional protest organizations. They are elected to wield power â€“ that is their job. To be sure, noise and protest and press conferences can play a key constructive role in shaping legislation. But when legislation in question ultimately comes to a vote, power is wielded with the quiet force of the law, which is why the binding redeployment language must remain, by far, the most important element of this bill to anyone who is interested in ending the war.
Finally, if one can appreciate the difference between packaging and power, consider that it is not a reach nor spin to consider the current supplemental a version of a “fully funded withdrawal.” Though it does not include language saying that the money appropriated to the Pentagon can only go to fund withdrawal activities, it is a bill that is funding for the military with the explicit, binding order that the war end by a date certain. In accepting the orders of the bill, the military knows it is being ordered to spend the money consistent with the language that says the war ends by September 2008 at the latest.
The bottom line, as I see it, is that if this measure passes tomorrow it will weaken and isolate Bush and the hawks. If it doesn’t, the spinners will hoot about the Dems being “divided” and that they are selling out their constituents by not working hard enough to end the war. And Bush will be seen as the “winner” who can go ahead and do as he pleases.
There are some progressive antiwar Dems who say they will vote with the Republicans because they want a better bill. I think that would be a huge mistake. If the House falls short of 218 votes for that reason, names will be named.