Anti-war Democrats Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters continue to strategize about trying to get the House Rules Committee to allow consideration of an amendment by Lee to the Iraq War supplemental appropriations bill that would use the power of the purse to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors from Iraq by the end of this year.
The supplemental appropriations bill, as it is currently written, provides funding requested by President Bush for the continuation of the war -- along with some soft benchmarks and timelines to which the president objects. Backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, the bill is seen as a slap at Bush but not a clear plan for ending the war.
Lee and Woolsey, California Democrats who chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Waters, another California Democrat who leads the bipartisan Out of Iraq Caucus, want more muscular langauge. And the Lee amendment provides it, requiring that funds be appropriated only for the continued protection of U.S. troops and contractors, pending and during a withdrawal process that would be required to be complete by December 31, 2007.
The Lee amendment also provides funding for diplomatic initiatives and for social and economic reconstruction initiatives within Iraq.
The supplemental appropriations bill is expected to be considered by the full House as early as tomorrow. Lee, Woolsey and Waters considered personally appearing before the Rules Committee to ask that the Lee amendment be prepared for consideration by the House prior to a final vote on the supplemnetal.
Pelosi and her allies have been cautious about allowing consideration of amendments. But some members of the Democratic caucus suggest that permitting consideration of the Lee amendment -- which would draw broad support, though perhaps not a majority vote, from Democrats and anti-war Republicans -- would make it easier for the speaker to attract support from anti-war Democrats for the supplemental.
The situation is fluid. Progressive Democrats of America, Peace Action and other groups are lobbying hard for consideration of the Lee amendment. Attention is focusing on Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter, D-New York, a Pelosi condidante who is also a war critic.
Lee has been pressing her case, focusing on the fact that Democrats have already acknowledged the need to constrain the president's warmaking. "If we believe that the occupation should end and we reject the President's escalation scheme, which is what the House voted to do a month ago, we shouldn't be funding them," she says. "If we are not playing along with the charade that the escalation is working, there is no reason not to withdraw our troops by Christmas."
Whether Lee and others will get a chance to vote for her amendment remains to be seen.
If not, progressives will have to decide whether to make a difficult vote for Pelosi's proposal -- with an eye toward the value of challenging the Bush administration on the war. or an equally difficult vote against it -- with an understanding that, in doing so, they might be seen as handing Bush a victory in a fight with the Democratic leadership of the House.
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