Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Supplemental
by Chris Bowers, Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 04:58:14 PM EDT
Rep. Jerry Nadler 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.The leadership picked up a ton of votes in those Thursday meetings. If Representatives like Nadler and Hinchey are behind this now, it becomes a lot more difficult for me to continue justifying my opposition. Unfortunately, this current bill appears to be the best we can get out of the House at this point in time. The progressive opposition might have helped improve the bill somewhat, even though it is still clearly not what we looked for, hoped for, and fought for these past years. However, it does contain enough provisions that will force Bush into operating the war illegally if he refuses to begin drawing it down over the next year or so. The latest bill from the Senate is also a point of optimism, as it is stronger than the House bill (although, of course, since it is the Senate, it has a far lower chance of passing).
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."(...)
With the conservatives' attention on the troop language, leaders could win over liberals on a separate track: a timeline for withdrawing troops. Although some of the most ardent Out of Iraq Caucus members, who want to bring troops home immediately, are considered lost, Pelosi and her leadership team have made inroads with others.
A meeting in Pelosi's office Thursday stretched from 1:30 to 4 p.m., as 35 to 40 Democratic liberals hashed over the legislation with Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Pelosi's political consigliere, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).
Miller's pitch was blunt: If the liberals team up with Republicans to bring down the Iraq bill, Democratic leaders would have no choice but to come back with a spending bill that simply funds the war, without any policy restrictions. It would pass easily, with Republican votes and the support of many Democrats.
That night, Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.), an Out of Iraq Caucus member, joined other liberals for a meeting in a basement room of the Capitol. With the zeal of the converted, Hinchey told his colleagues, "If we cannot pass a bill like this, the alternative is far worse, a straightforward 'Here's the money, Mr. President, spend it any way you want.' "
"This solution is not perfect," he said he told the group. "But it's a hell of a lot better than anything else we can get."
I have learned some lessons from this experience. First, it is entirely possible for progressives to function as swing voters in the House. We don't have to be taken for granted, and the Blue Dogs don't have to be the final stamp of approval on everything the Democratic caucus does. Second, Rahm Emanuel really is a self-serving backstabber who will leak whatever he possibly can to the press if it will help him while simultaneously hurting the rest of the leadership. Third, Alan Boyd really needs to face a stiff primary challenge.
Right now, my main concern is that George Miller is actually correct in his assessment of future moves. If, upon the defeat of this bill, a supplemental without any strings attached will easily pass through the House, then I have serious concerns over the leadership's willingness to even fight for this compromise bill once it is either vetoed or defeated via filibuster in the Senate. One of those things will almost certainly take place, and so if progressives are willing to compromise in order to get this bill through the House, then the leadership better be willing to stand behind this compromise. If, instead, it turns out that progressives have been placed in the position of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football on this one, don't expect as many of us to get behind a compromise like this next time around. I am not particularly energetic to fight for Democrats who don't fight for themselves. The House leadership better be ready to go to the mat in defense of this bill.