Despite the results of last November’s elections, which gave them the authority to check and balance George Bush, and despite polls that show roughly two-thirds of Americans want them to do so, Democrats are not quite ready to say “no” to the president’s demand for more money to wage the war that he pleases in Iraq.
On the critical Senate vote on whether to hand Bush a blank check he sought, 37 Democrats and so-called “Democrat” Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted with the White House. They joined with 42 Republicans — including Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who talks a good anti-war line but votes with the administration when push comes to shove — to pass the $120 billion supplemental spending bill.
Against the 80 votes for perpetual war were 14 “no” votes. Three came from conservative Republicans — North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn and Wyoming’s Mike Enzi — who objected to the pricey domestic initiatives and policies that were attached to the measure in an attempt to render it more palatable.
That left nine Democrats and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, objecting to giving Bush the go ahead to keep his war going through 2008, and perhaps to January 20, 2009.
The Democrats who voted “no” were: California’s Barbara Boxer, New York’s Hillary Clinton, Connecticut’s Chris Dodd, Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Massachusetts’ Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, Illinois’ Barack Obama, Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse and Oregon’s Ron Wyden.
Clinton, Obama and Dodd are all 2008 presidential candidates. Dodd gets the highest marks, as he was out front in his opposition to the spending bill, while Obama and Clinton took the right stand only after Dodd and another Democratic contender, John Edwards, turned up the heat on the frontrunners — as did activist groups such as Progressive Democrats for America and MoveOn.org.
The Senate vote was the most closely watched, because of its potential impact on the Democratic presidential contest and because it provided a clearer measure of Democratic willingness to stand up to Bush.
In the House, where the spending bill was split into two parts, the calculus was more complex. But Democrats still showed their divisions when it comes to challenging Bush’s warmaking.