HOW THE IRAQ COMPROMISE SEEMS TO BE WORKING OUT
This morning Jane and I went to a brunch with Hilda Solis (D-CA), an energetic, personable and articulate member of the Congressional Progressive Coalition. Congresswoman Solis' voting record shows she is one of the 10 most progressive members of Congress across all issues and on October 10, 2002, she was one of the Democrats who voted against the Bush position on all 4 roll calls on H.J. Res. 114, the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, roll calls 452-455. Speaker Pelosi's trust in her isn't misplaced and, in fact, Pelosi just named her (along with John Hall and Jerry McNerney) to the high profile Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of forward-looking environmental policy.
I asked her to give us some insight into the backroom give and take regarding the Iraq War. (She recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq with Carol Shea-Porter, Nancy Boyda and Loretta Sanchez.) Her credentials on opposing Bush and on seeking a way out of the mess he has created are golden. She seems to be putting a lot of faith in Jack Murtha's ability to reason with conservative Democrats (like himself) and with Democrats from red districts. Even with that it's a tough slog, a very tough slog to reach an agreement that meets the wishes (and requirements) of all members. Today's Washington Post explained how the House leaders are methodically building support for their plans to end the war.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, like Solis, a solid blue progressive with a clear record opposing Bush's attack on Iraq "was the only lawmaker at a meeting of all House Democrats on Thursday to stand up and declare that he could not support a compromise plan to fund the Iraq war with a timeline to end the conflict. So some party leaders had written him off even as he joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a private meeting."
In the confines of the speaker's suite, Nadler (N.Y.) could be specific. He sought assurances from Pelosi (Calif.) that President Bush would be compelled to withdraw all troops from combat by August 2008, as the legislation proposed. He wanted to know: "What is the legal compulsion to follow this timeline?"
A Pelosi aide disappeared from the meeting for a few minutes and returned with a few lines of legislative text offering what Nadler wanted to hear: Once troops are out of Iraq, no money would be available to put them back in, outside the narrow exceptions of targeted counterterrorism operations, embassy protection and efforts to train Iraqis.
"You know," Nadler said after a pause, "I think that's okay."
Pelosi needs 218 votes to pass the Democratic leadership's bill, "a $105 billion war-funding bill that would impose strict standards of rest and readiness for the military, establish clear benchmarks for the government of Iraq and set a timeline to end U.S. involvement in the war."
She starts from a base of 180. Nadler wanted the provision for enforcement. Another anti-war stalwart, Jim McDermott, wanted the inclusion of a prohibition of an attack on Iran without congressional approval (as stipulated in the Constitution). Minnesota freshman Tim Walz wanted the inclusion of a waiver that Bush could invoke to get around the strict standards of troop readiness. Meanwhile, some of the right-of-center and pro-war Democrats, like Allen Boyd don't like McDermott's stipulation-- nor, apparently, the Constitution-- and are demanding it be removed.
As Democratic leaders balance those demands, the calculus is fairly straightforward, said one conservative Democrat involved in the process. Leaders are counting on winning all but a dozen of the 43 conservative Blue Dog Democrats and all but a dozen of the 75 or so members of the liberal Out of Iraq Caucus. Then, Democratic leaders are hoping, enough Republicans will break ranks to put them over the top.
With Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a fairly consistent reactionary on the war-- who has voted with the Republicans on 18 of 44 Iraq-related roll calls between October 10, 2002 and May 25, 2005-- conspiring with the Blue Dogs, Pelosi has had to bend over backwards to placate the worst elements of the Democratic House caucus, alienating many real Democrats in the process.
It is the strong leadership of Pelosi and George Miller, both of whom are trusted by House liberals, that seems to be getting most progressives and most of the Out of Iraq Caucus members to go along with the compromise. Late Thursday afternoon Miller laid it out for around 40 progressives: if they team up with the Republicans to defeat the bill, there would be no alternative but to just give Bush the money he's requesting with no policy restrictions at all. That alternative is far less attractive than the imperfect bill Hoyer and Emanuel have manipulated.
UPDATE: CHENEY BARKED, AIPAC SNARLED, DEMOCRATS RAN AWAY WITH THEIR TAILS BETWEEN THEIR LEGS
Bad news, really bad: the "compromise" just got much more one-sided as the House Democratic Leadership abandoned its stand on basic Constitutional authority to wage war.
Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.
Officials [that means Rahm] said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.
Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.
God forbid we should make policies based on American needs instead of Israeli needs.