What Ramifications will the GOP Filibuster on Iraq Bring?
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 10:09:41 PM EDT
On the front page of The Washington Post Wednesday, Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray report that Senate Republicans' hard edged tactics on Iraq -- taking the nearly unprecedented step of threatening to filibuster any amendment that would help bring an end to the war -- could backfire.
Facing crumbling support for the war among their own members, Senate Republican leaders yesterday sought to block bipartisan efforts to force a change in the American military mission in Iraq.
But the GOP leadership's use of a parliamentary tactic requiring at least 60 votes to pass any war legislation only encouraged the growing number of Republican dissenters to rally and seek new ways to force President Bush's hand. They are weighing a series of new proposals that would change the troops' mission from combat to counterterrorism, border protection and the training of Iraqi security forces.
"I think we should continue to ratchet up the pressure -- in addition to our words -- to let the White House know we are very sincere," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), who broke with the president last month.
In some respects it's easy to see how heavy handed tactics by Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership in the Senate could begin to turn off some members -- and not only the handful who are beginning to become cognizant of the fact that they are going to have a heck of a time trying to run for reelection in 2008. For a wavering member, a with us or against us, all or nothing ultimatum on Iraq could actually expedite a move into the anti-war position.
That said, read the article more closely and you can see that these perceived negative consequences for the pro-war Republicans might not be all that they are cracked up to be. Neither in the article nor in other reporting has there been much of an indication that Senators like George Voinovich -- or John Warner or Pete Domenici or Susan Collins or Richard Lugar or almost any of them on the Republican side of the aisle -- have a willingness to do what it takes to bring forward an end to the Iraq War. Sure, they'd be willing to support the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group -- recommendations that might have made a difference had they been implemented last year when they were released but today would do little to either improve the situation on the ground in Iraq or help move us closer to an end to the war -- but they remain unwilling to support legislation that would actually mandate the draw down of forces from Iraq with the goal of ending U.S. military involvement any time before the end of the Bush presidency.
Atrios put it well last week when he wrote,
[T]rying to change our Iraq policy involves more than just getting behind some piece of legislation or another which is unlikely to pass. It involves a willingness to get behind just about anything that forces a change in policy, even if you're not fully on board with those things because you consider them to be better than the status quo of "staying the course" to preserve the fragile ego of the idiot manchild.
I see little to no indication that the handful of Republican Senators mentioned above who are reportedly wavering on the issue of Iraq will actually go forward and take the steps necessary to end the war -- let alone the 17 Republican Senators that it would take to overturn a presidential veto. So while there may be some negative ramifications for pro-war Senate Republicans as a result of their obstructionist tactics on Iraq, they will likely be limited to the sphere of of public opinion, which, however potentially impactful on the 2008 elections, will not likely hasten an end to the war.