Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Supplemental

The buildup to war in Iraq from 2001-2003 is one of the main reasons I started working in politics full-time. As such, when it came time for the fight over the supplemental appropriations bill under a Democratic majority, I could not just idly sit by. Thus, over the past two weeks or so (since the collapse of the original Murtha plan) I have been in communication with the progressive caucus on the Iraq supplemental. Now, The New York Times reports what I knew since Thursday evening: progressive opposition to the supplemental is fading badly, and the current form of the bill is going to be the best we can do for now. From the story:
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.

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."
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).

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.

Tags: House 2008, Iraq, progressive caucus (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Supplemental

Chris,

You are to be commended for you efforts on this. I continue to be amazed at, and will never understand, the "professional" Democratic political class' inability to read and understand the Constitution and to use the power the legislature is granted therein to force Bush's hand on this. The Murtha bill and idea was a simple, elegant, and constitutional method to use the Congress' power to regulate the armed forces to prevent this administration from sending unrested and untrained troop into the grotesgue meat grinder that is Iraq.

As usual, the strongest card is left unplayed, and the incumbent ship of fools plays along with dishonest and dangerous Republican talking points.

You guys here mydd are fighting the good fight, but we need to really grow this movement to get the right kind of people in office to prevent these disasters in the future.

Thanks again for working behind the scenes, on behalf of people like me, to try and get the right moves accomplished.

by Ron 2007-03-11 05:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Suppleme

How's that list coming?

Ending our occupation of Iraq is really the only issue I care about.  If the Democrats don't make real progress prior to the 2008 elections, a fairly large number of them deserve to be challenged in a primary.

I'll most likely be voting in the very competitive GA-12 district next time around.  John Barrow voted for the earlier non-binding resolution.  I'll be watching his votes closely on this....

by decon 2007-03-11 05:59PM | 0 recs
To hell with it


  Pass the bill, give Bush all the money he wants, get a few thousand more young people killed in Iraq for absolutely no reason, and ride the afterglow to massive Democratic victories in 2008.

 I mean, that's the plan, right?

 I hate our leadership. Hate hate hate hate hate our leadership.

 

by Master Jack 2007-03-11 05:59PM | 0 recs
Can someone explain to me...

 ...why it's so IMPORTANT for the Blue Dogs to keep this war going full-throttle?

  Do they really have THAT LITTLE regard for the lives of our young people?

  And they actually think this is a winning strategy for 2008. How mothereffingly stupid can our legislators be?

  Any lawmaker who continues to enable this war deserves to fry in hell for all eternity.
   

by Master Jack 2007-03-11 06:07PM | 0 recs
Important to stick with this

In response to Chris's lessons:

It's clearly been an unhappy first outing for the Progs in the 110th: but the tightest, best organized, most experienced such unit would have struggled against the leadership's decision to avoid confrontation with Bush on the Iraq supplemental.

As I tried to explain in my piece, the details don't hang together too well. But the Progs look well beaten.

On Rahmbo - are we sure it's a solo run of his? My impression of the piece was that it was a colorful portrayal of a decisive leadership bulldozering opposition. Didn't come across as a hit against Nancy, quite the opposite.

The George Miller threat is the kookiest thing of all: the idea that Pelosi should be threatening the Progs that, if they don't play ball, she'll be a complete rubber-stamp for Bush - rather than just the 95% of one that's her Plan A!

The thing is this: there is no legislative way of stopping or limiting the war.

All the Dems could do is to not pass appropriations for the war - and then take on Bush in the court of public opinion. Like Gingrich shutting down the government - only with much higher political stakes.

For that kind of confrontation, you'd need balls of steel.

So perhaps it's just as well the Dem leadership is going another way.

But - having got this far, I think those in the sphere with Capitol connections should get whatever they can out of it.

Not all fights will be as high stakes as this. If we (not me - I have none!) stay with some of the Progs and their people, get them to open up a bit - perhaps the experience of the supplemental bill can be turned to good use.

by skeptic06 2007-03-11 06:40PM | 0 recs
More on Rahm
"On Rahmbo - are we sure it's a solo run of his? "

Oh yes. He was a total prick doing this entire fight. More than anyone else, his leaks to the press probably killed the original Murtha plan. Total fucking dick. Obey actually got back at him in a really cool, totally behind the scenes way. Given that, it is sad that the thing that came out on Obey was the video where he acted like a jerk. He really is a good guy, if prickly.
by Chris Bowers 2007-03-11 08:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading

I have said it before and I will continue repeating it until I am blue in the face:  Rahm Emanuel is a piece of shit enemy to the progressive side and is almost as damaging as the far right in this country because he neuters us from the INSIDE.

He's a meglomaniacal puke who was handed power unearned after a couple terms in the House.  His raison d'etre is to water down progressive legislation.  He's one of the most arrogant people in Washington...and that's saying a lot.

This guy Rahm will be haunting and hurting us looong after Bush leaves office.  Only the Rahm Kool-Aid drinkers continue to assert how "important" he was to getting our House majority.  I say we got a majority in spite of Rahm's subterfuge.

by jgarcia 2007-03-11 06:40PM | 0 recs
I can understand wanting a more agressive bill

But realistically, how is something substantively more agressive than a 18-month withdrawal going to pass? Failing to pass anything risks political Armageddon - abrupt defunding is unpopular, cutting the troops off wildly unpopular, and the last time Congress tried to play chicken with the budget they got badly punished for it. I think Miller's threat was overplayed but it true that the Republicans could force through a measure with some empty useless fig leaf restrictions to pick up the 16 Democrats they need to pass.  A majority in the House can force a bill through against the Speaker's objections.

by curtadams 2007-03-11 06:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq

I think Nancy and Miller played hardball with the Progressives because they want to have something to show the American people.  The Democrats have been so inept at explaining to the public that defunding does not mean the troops are stranded in Iraq without support, pay, or protection. The Walter Reed scandal didn't help the Democrats either, because it makes the public more afraid that defunding is going to hurt the troops.  That said, the public is still expecting some sort of legislation from the Democrats because that's why they voted for them in November.  Nancy basically told the Progressives if they played hardball then they were going to end up with nothing and it was going to be a lose/lose for the all the Democrats in the court of public opinion.  I truly don't think she had much of a choice.

by Kingstongirl 2007-03-11 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Suppleme

There's nothing wrong with accepting a compromise at the end of a hard debate.  It has been the recent historical tactic of Democrats to begin a hard debate with a compromise and then not talk about how they got pulled completely into the deep that has resulted in the current messes.  Mitigation is victory, Chris, and once you've held out past the point of diminishing returns it's time to declare that victory and begin preparing for the next fight.  Clearly, you can already see that fight.  Please continue to help us get ready.

by Endymion 2007-03-11 08:02PM | 0 recs
Progressives Being Threatened by Pelosi

Pelosi is lost.

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.

Call her bluff:

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.
 

I would tell Pelosi, go ahead, make my day. We'll go all over Comedy Central, MTP, and Keith O.  telling people about the threats you made and your support for the Republicans.  She and lemming Dems obviously support the surge and the war, which is why they voted for it in the first place.  Rangel said on TV:  One had to be deaf, blind and dumb to not know that Bush was lying about the reasons for war.  

by dkmich 2007-03-12 02:35AM | 0 recs
Pelosi threatens Democrats

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.
 You are too smart to trust Pelosi and the Dem leadership.  The Dems are using you, us, Kos, netroots.  They don't give a damn about any of us cause they firmly believe "we have nowhere else to go".  I thought Howard Dean was the opportunity to restore integrity to our government and our country.  Take your party and your country back and all that jazz.  Well, it ain't going to happen.  We are property.  The Publicans come through and redistribute the middle class wealth up because they never have enough.  The poor?  Well, they better move over and make room because we have a lot more coming.

by dkmich 2007-03-12 02:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Suppleme

I agree on Rahm: would love to see a strong challenger take him out.  Unfortunately, I don't know of any in the district.  Plus, we'd need to find some willing to wear a mesh coat at all times to deflect the knives ... and preferrably with no close immediate family to be hurt by Rahm's tactics... and extremely well-funded.  

Or we need Patrick Fitzgerald to indict more of the Chgo Dem Machine until it gets so close to Rahm that he can't avoid the stain ...

by Maven 2007-03-12 09:31AM | 0 recs
Realpolitik

"get a few thousand more young people killed in Iraq for absolutely no reason,"

One reason:  realpolitik.  As it is, the Democratic Party is already being tarred as the "Party that lost Iraq" just for disagreeing with the President policy.

Efforts to defund or otherwise for a withdrawal will allow President Bush and the GOP to get completely off the hook.  And leave us floating like chum on the water, waiting for the MSM to finish us off.  

by zak822 2007-03-12 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Opposition Fading On Iraq Suppleme

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.

Good to see you have finally accepted what those of us in IL have known for quite some time.

by Disputo 2007-03-13 10:31AM | 0 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads