Number Crunch

Here are the numbers to keep in mind:

Number of Democrats in the House — 233
Number of votes needed to override a veto, if all members vote — 290
Number of Republican/Independent votes needed — 57

Number of Democrats in the Senate — 51
Number of votes needed to override a veto, if all members vote — 67
Number of Republican/Independent votes needed — 16

Of course, that’s assuming you get 100 percent of the Dems, which so far hasn’t happened on any of the Iraq votes in the House. In the Senate, Joe Lieberman is counted as a Dem to claim a Democratic majority and rights to committee chairs, but he votes with the Republicans regarding Iraq. He’s neither fish nor fowl, as they say. But we get Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on our side on Iraq, so let’s call it a wash.

The point is that in order to take the war away from President Bush a whole mess o’ Republicans must be persuaded to vote with the Dems — at least 67 House members and 16 senators, possibly more. But the only hope we have that troops will be deployed out of Iraq — indeed, that anything resembling a rational policy is applied to Iraq — before the Bush Administration ends is if there’s a big enough voting block to override a Bush veto. Even then Bush might well ignore the law, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

President Bush is expected to veto the Iraq Accountability Act early this week. It’s not clear to me what Congress might do next. Whatever happens, I expect the Dems to continue to butt heads with Bush over the war. The question is, when will more Republicans join them?

Doyle McManus writes for the Los Angeles Times that this Iraq War bill is only a prelude.

To buy time for his buildup of more than 28,000 troops to show results, Bush asked his commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, to deliver a progress report to the nation in early September.

That helped stave off Republican defections as Congress debated whether to impose a timetable for troop withdrawals. But it also established September as a deadline for clearer military and political progress in Iraq, a tactical concession for a White House that long has refused to accept any benchmarks or timetables for evaluating the war, now 4 years old.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress already are focusing on September as their next major decision point on the war — planning hearings to debate Petraeus’ findings and, in the Democrats’ case, promising new attempts to force Bush to withdraw troops.

By September, the troop buildup will have been underway for more than six months. Unless there is dramatic improvement in Iraq, public support for the war will probably have eroded further. And by September, skittish Republicans will be four months closer to starting their reelection campaigns.

At the moment, at least 17 Republican senators are expected to run for re-election in 2008. There are three more sitting Republican senators whose terms expire in 2009 but who might retire. Among those 20 are the two Republicans who voted with the Dems on the Iraq Accountability Act, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

And, of course, all members of the House face re-election in 2008.

Doyle McManus continues,

GOP leaders warn that they will need dramatic evidence of progress — something that has been in short supply in Iraq — to maintain support for the war.

“We need to get some better results from Iraq both politically, economically and militarily, and that needs to happen in the foreseeable future,” said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a Bush administration loyalist.

Several moderate Republicans have warned that they are preparing to switch sides unless the troop “surge” shows results.

“If the president’s new strategy does not demonstrate significant results by August, then Congress should consider all options — including a redefinition of our mission and a gradual but significant withdrawal of our troops next year,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who last week voted against the withdrawal bill.

Even the most optimistic of the generals do not expect significant results by August.

“There is a lot of frustration with the administration on the Republican side,” said one GOP House member who has voted against every Democratic measure on Iraq but asked not to be quoted by name to avoid angering the White House.

This tells us how sick our government has become. Even a congressman is afraid to speak on the record against the Regime. There cannot be a representative, democratic government if the peoples’ representatives are intimidated by the executive branch.

If Bush follows through on his veto threat, senior Democratic lawmakers have said they will pass an emergency funding bill that does not include the withdrawal timelines the president has complained so vociferously about.

Such a measure, however, almost certainly would include readiness standards for the strained military. It would also outline benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet to demonstrate progress in reconciling differences between the country’s sectarian communities.

The administration opposes benchmarks that would impose penalties on Iraq if it does not meet them on time.

“To begin now to tie our own hands and to say, ‘We must do this if they don’t do that,’ doesn’t allow us the flexibility and creativity that we need to move this forward,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

But benchmarks have gained support among Republicans who voice increasing frustration over the Iraqi government’s failure to complete long-promised political reforms: a new law apportioning the country’s oil revenue, a relaxation of rules banning members of the overthrown Baath Party from government jobs, and elections to set up provincial governments.

“We’ve got to get [more] aggressive on pushing the political solution,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a supporter of the war, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve got to push them very hard. And our timelines, I think, are very short…. I don’t know if [September] is the time to set, but I don’t think we have infinite time.”

I expected more Republicans to have broken with Bush by now. But I agree with McManus that the point of the “surge” was to buy time for the administration. Republicans facing reelection in 2008 may not want to run in the general election as supporters of the Iraq War, but neither do they want to alienate their right-wing base. And the base doesn’t want to hear anything about the war that doesn’t include the words winning and victory. So Republicans are boxed in. I fully expect Bush to trot out some other phony Iraq initiative when he comes back from the August vacation, in the hopes it will keep Republicans in Congress in line and buy him a few more months.

But Republicans running for reelection in 2008 do not have infinite time. If they can’t defuse Iraq as an issue before serious campaigning begins next year, it’s going to cost many of them their seats. Surely they know this.

I want to end the war in Iraq as quickly as possible. However, the big immovable object in the way of that goal is the POTUS. We can holler all we want about defunding the war or impeaching the POTUS, but the reality is that the only body with legal authority to kick Bush out of the way is Congress. And nothing meaningful will happen in Congress until at least 16 Republican senators and 57 Republican House members support it. IMO antiwar activists need to stop bellyaching about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and get to work on Republicans.

The following Republican incumbent senators must win reelection in 2008 if they hope to serve another term.* Not all of them will change their votes, so we’ll need a few Republican senators not on this list. I’m just saying these are the senators with the most reason to be nervous.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
Saxby Chambliss of Georgia
Thad Cochran of Mississippi
Norm Coleman of Minnesota
Susan Collins of Maine
John Cornyn of Texas
Larry Craig of Idaho
Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina
Pete Domenici of New Mexico
Michael Enzi of Wyoming
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Chuck Hagel of Nebraska**
Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
Pat Roberts of Kansas
Jeff Sessions of Alabama
Gordon Smith of Oregon**
Ted Stevens of Alaska
John Sununu of New Hampshire
John Warner of Virginia

*The term of Wayne Allard of Colorado is also ending, but he has announced his retirement.
** Already voting with the Dems.

The White House is making noises about rejecting legislation that requires the Iraqi government to meet benchmarks, even if there are no timetables. If Reid and Pelosi think they could patch together a veto-proof majority for such a bill, it might be worthwhile to pass it. Baby steps are better than no steps.

Update, sorta related: Maliki’s Office Is Seen Behind Purge in Forces.

Update2: William F. Buckley: “There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.”

26 thoughts on “Number Crunch

  1. Between now and September, how many more young Americans will die in Iraq? How important is it to the Republican Party to buy time and cover for the worst ever POTUS?

  2. We don’t have the votes to overrider a veto and we won’t be getting them any time soon. The war will continue if we depend on that.

  3. Publicus, dear, I thought I told you to go away until you grow up. The reality is that the war will continue until Congress stops it, meaning we’ve got to get the votes to stop it. What you propose ain’t gonna happen, so get over it.

    People like you are helping Bush, btw.

  4. Testify Maha!!!!!!!!!!!

    The lives of those senators should suck because of public pressure until they do their damn jobs and listen to the majority of the American public who has made it very clear that enough is enough!

    As I have watched people complain I am just stunned that the senators listed above seem to be getting a free ride from voters.Everyone just seems to except that senators on the right are exempt from doing their jobs…and those on the right seem to think that their senators do not serve them, but instead it is their duty to serve our dear leader…..
    I think the right did the most to create this mess and if their party has any honor left they MUST be at the for- front of the clean up.As an independent voter that is what I would like to see….Ok righties, dear leader had his fun,he got to play army men, you even let him drain away all of our funds and borrow on top of that..but now it is time for the adults in your party to resume control and put a stop to this. Why are senators on the right not held to the highest account(after dear leader of course) for the damage they are allowing to continue happening?Why have they not been the focus from the start ?The public has every right to request that the senators listed above DO THEIR JOBS and SERVE the PEOPLE…like any employee the boss(you and I) has every right to ride the employee to get the job done…said employee is welcome to do their job or quit if they don’t like it.But for far too long the American people have allowed the right to sit on their big backsides while we demand the other side do all the clean up,after they made the mess…whats wrong with this picture?

  5. As Big Tent Democrat so insistently repeats at, Congress doesn’t HAVE to vote for the Iraq war supplemental, they could simply fail to pass the bill. In other words, Bush is in a position that requires Congress to proactively give him the money to continue the war.

    That means Bush needs the votes of 51 Senators AND 218 Representatives in order to continue the war. That means he needs all 49 Republicans, Joe Lieberman and one Democrat in the Senate, plus all 201 Republicans plus 17 Democrats in the House

    What is he going to do if they don’t pass it?

  6. In contrast to the anonymous senator, Susan Collins regularly speaks out against the President – and then votes with him. That’s because here in Maine, she pretends to be a moderate, while she goes on the stump for people like Rick Santorum. Tom Allen (currently Representative from district 1) is running against Collins, and is quite popular here in Maine.

    But it’s difficult to know, because Maine only rates about 1 or 2 polls per election cycle. So anyone out there, looking to make a difference – this could be a very important race.

    (If you’re looking to peel off a vote in the near future, Snowe is far more likely to turn than Collins.)

  7. The Democrats passed a bill providing the funds needed by the military in Iraq.

    If Dubya vetoes that bill, why not just leave it at that? Let him explain why he cut off funds.

  8. If Dubya vetoes that bill, why not just leave it at that?

    That’s what I say!.. Congress should just drag their heels to present another bill…Bush and Cheney seem awfully confident that Bush will get exactly what he wants the second time around. The Democrats took the bull by the horns and they can’t let go now. It would be extremely damaging to let Bush re-assert his unchallenged authority and get his way.

  9. It would be bad to just let him get his way, yes, but … while it is of course NOT true that the military is in any immediate danger of running out of money, those pockets are not bottemless. I think last estimate I saw is they could run the war through, like, June or so with no new appropriation?

    It’s vital that the dems not just roll over on this, but on the other hand, some sort of spending bill must be passed eventually, before the military does run out of money.

    So, the clock is ticking here …the dems have to find something that (a) is not just giving the president everything he wants, but (b) will have enough support on the republican side of the aisle to make it veto-proof. (I almost wrote that the president might sign, buit that’s just foolishness … at this point he will not sign anything that doesn’t give him exactly and everything he wants, damn the consequences)


  10. What is he going to do if they don’t pass it?

    He’ll let the soldiers starve and run out of ammunition before he’d bring them home. Then he’ll blame Democrats.

  11. Pelosi and Reid both made it abundantly clear that the supplemental provides Bush with every penny he asked for. Congress has given the troops what they need. If Bush wants to be a hard ass and protect his failure then he has to understand that 60% of the population, at a minimum are thinking clearly enough and paying attention to who is going to shoulder the blame if the troops don’t get funded..Bush will be the one with the egg on his face. Trust me.
    Bush is playing games of brinkmanship with the welfare of the troops being his shield/ hostage…His whole strategy is hostage negotiation 101. Introduce an element that didn’t exist before into the negotiation and use that element( the surge) to leverage your bargaining position. The Dem’s have to call him on his bluff. The war is lost. Bush blew it, big time. Sooner or later America is going to have to acknowledge Bush’s failure in might as well be now.

    I enjoy being an armchair warrior/strategist/ political analyst extraordinaire from my mom’s basement…Old give ’em hell Swami… 🙂

  12. Ian writes, “some sort of spending bill must be passed eventually, before the military does run out of money.”

    Such a bill has been passed. If the President chooses to veto it, that’s his problem. Why is this so hard to understand?

    Your move, Mr. President.

  13. Why is this so hard to understand?

    He’ll veto it, and he won’t budge funds or no funds, and even if he doesn’t get the funds he still won’t bring troops home.. He doesn’t care who dies, as long as it isn’t him.

    Is that what you want?

  14. Norm Coleman and Gordon Smith may vote against the war. More may join especially if the info you present in your waste and fraud post ever gets mainstream. Congress does not need a veto proof majority to cut off funding for the war. Send Bush the same bill and make him veto it again. Yes, as you say, Bush may not budge and he may support the troops by starving them or allowing them to run out of supplies but that 60% could just as easily become 75 percent and the veto proof majority could very easily materialize as a result. I’ll put my bet on the percentage of people strongly opposed to the war increasing and the number of Bush supporting congressional reps decreasing.

  15. My suggestion is that instead of a huge ’emergency’ bill, they start to slice up finding to smaller, more directed purposes, with lesser caveats attached to each. If GW will veto a bill that contains every dime he wanted, with limits, then send up a stream of bills with lesser limits attached to each. (Without any gravy for Halliburton, and the understanding there will be criminal penalties for anyone who misappropriates directed funds.)

    This fits in nicely with the pattented Maha ‘bigger asshole’ theory. Congress should keep sending money, or offers of money, with the defense that to be responsible to the voters who have voiced dispproval for continuing the war in the last election AND to continue support for the GIs in the field, the Dems will make EVERY effort to fund AND limit the war. POTUS is the one who refuses to cooperate.

    Make GW look like a dictator demanding unlimited funds and unlimited authority; let the papers print every week that King George vetoed yet another bill, and keep a very public tally. No obstruction from Dems; every effort to cooperate, within the mandate handed to them by the voters.

  16. I have been thinking about that so called ‘base’ that the Republicans do not want to alienate. Something smells about the 28%ers being so important, especially as these ones holding out are also mainly the Coulter/Rush level of thinkers. What political party would want to stand tall with such supporters in a situation of disastrous war??

    One answer I can come up with to my own question is that the real ‘base’ which GWB and the Republicans don’t want to alienate are the war profiteering no-bid-contract guys and the oil companies for whom the Iraq War is already or promises to be the big payoff of the decade.

  17. Experience suggests that winding down a war takes years (We’re still in the Balkans). A side-by-side comparison of the Vietnam and Iraq war timelines is sobering.

    Knowing this, and knowing the Democratic leadership is very risk averse, one has to wonder if they want to “succeed” in forcing a withdrawl at this time. If they “succeed,” Bush’s war becomes their war…. and the near-certain unraveling will be blamed on them by the MSM.

    In addition, the Democrats understand the concept of leaving a power vacuum. In this case, the vacuum of a US withdrawl would be filled by Iran. The Democrats don’t really intend to “leave Iraq,” at least not without seriously weakening Iran first.

  18. Yes, as you say, Bush may not budge and he may support the troops by starving them or allowing them to run out of supplies

    Well, see, that’s a place I would not choose to go. Bush’s strength is that he is at least a borderline (if not a full blown) sociopath, meaning that he has no compunction about exploiting the troops and wasting their lives to serve his own ends. And his ends are that he doesn’t want to admit defeat and be forced to withdraw from Iraq. His ego is on the line, and ego is Bush’s alpha and omega. By his pathologies ye shall know him.

    That means Congress has to be the grown-ups who do what they can to protect the troops from Bush’s Folly. (Sociopaths are masters at exploiting the compunction of others; that’s why sociopaths nearly always have the upper hand over others.) But that’s how it is. I say we will not play chicken with the lives of the troops. If we did, that would make us no better than Bush.

    If you’ve ever been in the sorry position of having to deal with a sociopath in a position of power — and I have — you realize after a while that you are interacting with a disease, not a person. Don’t expect a sociopath to react to a challenge the way a human being normally would. You also realize that you can never beat a sociopath at his own game. The only choices you have are to walk away from the game — not an option, in our case — or remove the sociopath’s power.

    Those of you who think Bush would do the right thing and withdraw the troops if the money dried up are, IMO, naive. Ultimately the only way to beat Bush is to remove his power. And only Congress can do that.

    but that 60% could just as easily become 75 percent and the veto proof majority could very easily materialize as a result. I’ll put my bet on the percentage of people strongly opposed to the war increasing and the number of Bush supporting congressional reps decreasing.

    Well, yes, that was the point of my post. But we don’t have to play chicken with the troops to do that. It’s happening anyway. The point of the post (which you might want to read again) is to urge antiwar activists to help pick up the momentum by pressuring Republicans to change sides sooner rather than later.

    It’s possible the only way this game will end is if Bush is removed from office. Currently the Republicans, and Bush, probably think they can wait out the clock. Our job is to persuade them they cannot.

  19. GDAEman:

    Experience suggests that winding down a war takes years (We’re still in the Balkans).

    Hell, we’re still in Japan. That doesn’t mean World War II is still going on.

    There are many, many parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, but I do want to point out that a cease-fire was declared in January 1973, and the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in March 1973. March 1973 was the official end of the war for the U.S., not April 1975.

    U.S. military personnel remaining in Vietnam after March 1973 were military advisors and some Marine guards.Those Marines who were rescued by helicopter after the fall of Saigon in 1975 were embassy guards, not combat troops.

    Knowing this, and knowing the Democratic leadership is very risk averse, one has to wonder if they want to “succeed” in forcing a withdrawl at this time. If they “succeed,” Bush’s war becomes their war…. and the near-certain unraveling will be blamed on them by the MSM.

    It’s going to be “their war” sooner or later. If they can’t force an end to combat operations during the Bush Administration, then the next president — very likely a Democrat — will have to do it. Better now than later, for the Democrats’ own sake.

    The Democrats don’t really intend to “leave Iraq,” at least not without seriously weakening Iran first.

    I think that’s nonsense.

  20. If I read the tea leaves clearly from Murtha, the next step is a bill providing funding for 2-3 months. That gets the troops to the September assessment promised by Petraeus. And that’s where I fully expect the Dems to dig their heels in fully.

    I expect – if hurricane season proves active – we’ll see $4 gas by Labor Day. That, plus the culmination of multiple investigations, plus no progress in Iraq will push the polls so low that GOP defections will be rising. At least, that’s my hope.

    This can’t be exactly compared to Vietnam because of the lack of the draft. But now, as then, if the polls say the GOP incumbents are endangered by the dozens, will produce the sense that the country’s ready to bring on the guillotine. And a recession by January would guarantee GOP unity would crumble.

    Thus, I expect a troop withdrawal will be announced this year. Between October and December 31.

  21. Hmm…. the timeline provided in my link shows the 1973 date you reference. However, judging from the hasty way the US fled from Vietnam in 1975, shoving helicopters off of aircraft carriers to make way for others, shredding documents in haste, sorting out who got to leave and who was left behind as tanks advanced…. 1975 seems like the end of the Vietnam war to me… coincidentally, April 30. 79 US soldiers died in S. Vietnam “after” the end of the war (post-1972).

    We’ll see if the Democrats own the war, sooner before Nov. 2008, or later. I’m predicting later, with some sort of political cover to indicate they’re doing ‘something.’

    The Democrats don’t get to choose when “combat operations” end, unless Americans leave Iraq. I don’t think the US is leaving Iraq, even under a Democratic administration, so its the insurgents who will decide when to stop shelling US compounds, sniping and setting off IEDs.

    We’ll see how long the Democrats continue to occupy Iraq after taking the White House in ’08, if not with US troops, then with contract mercenaries.

    Why don’t the Democrats cut the funds for construction of permenent bases? Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to that yet.

  22. GDA — Sorry, it just seems a bit anal to assume that because X happened in the 1970s, X must happen again in the 2000s. History does repeat itself, but never perfectly.

    However, I think what happens post-combat troop withdrawal in Iraq might be quite a bit like what happened post-combat troop withdrawal in Vietnam. After 1973 the whole dadblamed nation lost interest in Vietnam, and Congress cut off funding to the South Vietnamese. This was a reversal from what the politicians in Congress had said they would do. This cutoff of funding had a lot to do with why Saigon fell in 1975, which was why the Embassy Guards were airlifted off the roof. And then we were totally out of Vietnam.

    I’m saying that once combat troops are out and Bush is gone, it’s highly likely that the next administration and congress will cut Iraq loose entirely, as we did South Vietnam. Even though Democrats in Congress might be saying otherwise now, I suspect that once combat troops are out and they’re no longer sparring with Bush, very suddenly the politicians will decide dumping more resources into Iraq isn’t worth the trouble. I just hope the advisers and guards are withdrawn before they have to be rescued by helicopter this time.

    In short, I don’t see us keeping a measurable presence in Iraq for years and years. If we manage to keep a standard embassy staff there, I’ll be surprised.

  23. Time will tell.

    I’m not claiming X therefore Y. I simply put the side-by-side Vietnam/Iraq timeline out and said, consider this as background. Sure I made a prediction, but how serious can that be?

    I’ve actually been presenting arguments on two sides. See reference to Ray McGovern in Green Zone note below. Who are you going to put your money on, me or a former CIA analyst (given the track record of the CIA, don’t answer that question).

    Further, one of my points is that Congress (the US) has a strong interest in staying in Iraq (or at least weakening Iran first)… they’re concerned about leaving a power vacuum, and Israel is always present to remind Congress of that. (Ray McGovern’s recent thoughts on that are of interest too). Search for “Levin” in that last link.

    The Green Zone is getting hit despite the increased US presence in Baghdad.

    I don’t think we’ll see a major move by Democrats to own this war until after Nov. ’08 (setting benchmarks, or a non-binding withdrawl date, isn’t a major move), but hope I’m wrong on this.

  24. they’re concerned about leaving a power vacuum

    Of course they are; that’s hardly news. I’m concerned about it, too. And I’m sure a large part of members of Congress of both parties want to be able to keep some kind of presence in Iraq for a long time. The question is not what they want now, but what they will want later, and whether circumstances will force the U.S. completely out whether the U.S. wants to go or not.

    I’m saying what the politicians want now is no indicator of what’s going to happen, because you can’t always get what you want.

    I see absolutely no point in our spinning our wheels over what a post-troop withdrawal Iraq will look like, because the situation there is in such flux that we have no way of knowing what conditions we’ll be dealing with by the time a troop withdrawal is actually accomplished. Keeping a physical presence in Iraq may not be possible. Even if it is possible, the situation may have changed in such a way that it is no longer desirable.

    I don’t think we’ll see a major move by Democrats to own this war until after Nov. ‘08

    They don’t want to “own” this war at all; they want to get it substantially over with before George Bush leaves office so they don’t have to “own” it. Right now they are doing what is POSSIBLE to end it.

    As far as “weakening” Iran, we’re not in a position to do that militarily. What the Dems and anyone else in Washington and the rest of the planet who isn’t bleeping crazy want to do about Iran is defuse the situation there through diplomatic means. If that’s “weakening” Iran, then fine, I agree. If you think the Dems want to soften up Iran with an artillery barrage, so to speak, I think you’re nuts.

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