The night before Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference, House Democrats removed language from an Iraq supplemental bill that would have prevented President Bush from attacking Iran without Congressional approval.
“Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy,” the Associated Press reported. “Opposition to the Iran language from conservative Blue Dogs had threatened to sink the spending plan,” added National Journal’s Congress Daily.
Hawkish “pro-Israel” organizations, on the Jewish and Christian right, have been leading advocates of a more confrontational Iran policy. Thousands of supporters are in town for AIPAC’s star-studded convention, which as usual drew half of the Senate and a third of the House, including members of both parties’ leadership.
The effort to remove the Iran language was spearheaded by Congressman Allen Boyd (the only Democrat to support the privatization of Social Security in 2005). In addition to supporting the White House line on Iran, the Blue Dogs want to give Bush a waiver to keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. Appeasing the Blue Dogs could hurt Pelosi with the progressive wing of her caucus, which is already weary about the supplemental.
Rep. Jim McDermott, sponsor of the Iran provision, says he wants to see the final version of the bill before deciding how to vote. That’s also the position of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
But there is much unease. By acquiescing to the White House, many rank-and-file Democrats believe their leadership is missing a major opportunity to end one war and prevent another. The leading proponent of reining in the Bush Administration on Iran is Senator Jim Webb. You’d think that Webb would be the ideal person to speak for the party on national security matters. The Blue Dogs and the AIPAC caucus apparently disagree.