The question is not whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid flinched in their negotiations with the Bush administration over the continuation of the Iraq occupation.
They did. Despite some happy talk about benchmarks that have been attached to the Iraq supplemental spending bill that is expected to be considered by Congress this week, the willingness of Pelosi and Reid to advance a measure that does not include a withdrawal timeline allows Bush to conduct the war as he chooses for much if not all of the remainder of his presidency. This failure to abide by the will of the people who elected Democrats to end the war will haunt Pelosi, Reid and their party — not to mention the United States and the battered shell that is Iraq.
This "compromise" legislation is such an embarrassing example of what happens when raw politics overwhelms principle — and political common sense — that House Democrats have divided the $12O billion measure into two sections. That will allow Republicans and sold-out Democrats to vote for the president’s Iraq funding, while anti-war Democrats and their handful of Republican allies can vote "no." Then both Democratic camps can vote separately for the second section — including a federal minimum-wage increase and more than $8 billion in funding for domestic programs — while Republicans oppose this section.
Presuming that both parts pass the House, they will then be sent to the Senate as a single bill for members of that chamber to accept or reject. The end result of this confusing set of legislative maneuvers will be twofold: Lots of House members will be able to avoid accountability for their votes, while Bush will get his blank check.Even Pelosi says she’ll vote against the Iraq funding section of the House bill because it lacks "a goal or a timetable" for extracting U.S. troops from the conflict. But, no matter how she votes, Pelosi will have facilitated a process that gives the president more war funding than he had initially requested
But the real story now is not the refusal of the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to hold steady in the face of the president’s cynical claim that refusing him a blank check to maintain his war through the end of his presidency somehow threatens U.S. troops. That has happened and no matter what games are played with voting procedures, the reality is that the Democratic leadership has failed to lead at the most critical juncture.
The question that remains to be answered is a frustrating but significant one: How many Democrats and responsible Republicans will refuse to accept this ugly political calculus?
What we know is that there will be opposition. MoveOn.org, which provided critical cover for the Democratic leadership during earlier fights on the supplemental and related matters, is now urging all Democrats to vote "no" on the war funding — and it is threatening in-district ad campaigns against Democrats and Republicans who back the measure.