The Next Step in the Senate on Iraq
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 06:49:44 PM EDT
This morning I had the chance to participate in a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to talk about what's happening in his chamber in the next little while. I'll get to the substance of the conversation as well as my impressions of it in a moment, but first let me pass on the AP's account of Reid's strategy to hold Iraq votes in the coming weeks from reporter Anne Flaherty.
Under Reid's plan, the Senate will cast separate votes on whether to cut off funding for combat next year, order troop withdrawals within four months, impose stricter standards on the length of combat tours and rescind congressional authorization for the Iraqi invasion.
The measures likely will be offered as amendments to the 2008 defense authorization bill, a measure that approves $649 billion in military spending.
The legislative proposals will probably fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass controversial legislation under Senate rules. Many GOP members say they are willing to wait until September before they call for change, giving the president's new strategy of Iraq a chance to work.
When Reid talked about the need to get 60 votes, as noted in the AP report above, I asked him just why 60 votes would really be needed -- wouldn't it be more effective to not only force Senate Republicans to vote no on cloture votes but to actually sustain a filibuster, physically talking the bill to death? Reid seemed to answer in the affirmative that Democrats should put the pressure on Republicans but at the same time seemed to stop short of endorsing a move to keep the Republicans talking indefintely, blocking funds from going to American troops in Iraq.
Judging by the polling, it is just not the case that the Democrats in Congress gained politically from the last debate over funding for the Iraq War. In fact, polling indicates that Congress' approval rating has dropped more than 3 points since the debate over the Iraq supplemental bill really heated up in mid-April. It certainly seems to be the case that President Bush and the Republicans also suffered as a result of their gamesmanship on the issue -- the President's approval rating has dropped more than 2 points over this same period, according to a composite of polls. But at the same time, the Democrats' strategy of allowing for funding bills to move forward without real accountability or a timeline for the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq is just not working politically.
That's why I'd like to see Senate Democrats force Senate Republicans to actually filibuster over Iraq. Put the onus entirely on them. Really step up the pressure. While this might not expedite the beginning of the redeployment of American troops, which indeed it the ultimate goal, it will at least show the American people that the Democrats are willing to stand up for what they profess to believe in and it will put Republicans in the position of playing politics over the war and obstructing any real accountability on the issue.
Update [2007-6-12 23:16:9 by Jonathan Singer]: I just want to make clear that I understand that the Democrats in the Senate are starting at a distinct disadvantage, holding just 49 votes with Tim Johnson out until September (hopefully, if his rehabilitation continues to proceed) and with Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans on Iraq. What's more, I understand that this is a somewhat soft 49, with some Senators not willing to go as far as others or, alternatively, some Senators only willing to go so far. That said, I think it's important to keep the pressure on Senate Republicans, both the caucus as a whole and individual members (particularly those up for reelection in 2008 and even 2010), so that they are continually put on the record as supporting an unending U.S. military presence in Iraq.