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“In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.”     James Madison

March 29, 2007

Bush vs. Congress: Let The Confrontation Begin

by Doug Mataconis

Following on the heals of the House of Representatives, the Senate has approved, by a narrow margin, an Iraq War spending bill that sets a deadline of roughly one year from today by which American forces must be out of Iraq:

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.

As with the House vote the margin in the Senate is far short of what would be needed to override a Presidential veto, and it is unlikely that any of the 46 Republicans plus Joe Lieberman who voted against the bill would cross over and vote to override and expected veto. The bill is dead in the water.

I generally support the idea that the United States needs to start thinking about an exit strategy in Iraq, and that we need to do so sooner rather than later. I also think that the war itself, and the way it’s been handled since virtually day one, have been a colossal series of mistakes. But the way the Senate has gone about doing this is totally unconstitutional. First of all, Congress simply doesn’t have the authority to order the President to follow a specific military strategy. They authorized the use of military force and the President is Commander in Chief. As CiC, he has the authority to decide military strategy. Not only that, he is the head of a co-equal branch of government and is not subservient to Congress.

There really is only one way for Congress to exercise authority over America’s policy in Iraq. They would have to exercise the power of the purse and vote to defund the war. By all indications, the Democrats on the Hill have neither the political courage nor the support among their own members for such a move. Additionally, polling seems to indicate that while the public wants American troops to come home, they would not support cutting off funding to those troops as long as they are there.

Both practically and politically, the opponents of the war are in a very difficult position unless they can convince the President to change his mind. Given what we’ve seen from George W. Bush over the past seven years, that seems highly unlikely.

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7 Comments

  1. There really is only one way for Congress to exercise authority over America’s policy in Iraq. They would have to exercise the power of the purse and vote to defund the war. By all indications, the Democrats on the Hill have neither the political courage nor the support among their own members for such a move. Additionally, polling seems to indicate that while the public wants American troops to come home, they would not support cutting off funding to those troops as long as they are there.

    Play devil’s advocate here with me if you will. What if the Democrats are trying to get Bush to cut off the funding of the war? Funding for the Iraq War ends on April 15 and this supplemental must pass before then. The Democrats intentionally send Bush a bill he cannot sign. Therefore, when money runs out on April 15, the Democrats, the left-wing blogosphere, and their allies in the media will blame Bush for defunding the war because he has been given a bill by the Democrats that would fund the war. Therefore, the Democrats get to defund the war and they blame Bush and he takes whatever political hailstorm comes over the defunding of the war.

    Comment by Kevin — March 29, 2007 @ 12:55 pm
  2. Kevin,

    What if the Democrats are trying to get Bush to cut off the funding of the war? Funding for the Iraq War ends on April 15 and this supplemental must pass before then. The Democrats intentionally send Bush a bill he cannot sign. Therefore, when money runs out on April 15, the Democrats, the left-wing blogosphere, and their allies in the media will blame Bush for defunding the war because he has been given a bill by the Democrats that would fund the war.

    I can certainly see things playing out that way, but unless I’m reading the political tea leaves completely wrong, I think that the Democrats are on the wrong side of this one politically. The President and the Republicans will be the ones talking about funding troops.

    Basically, it’s a higher stakes version of the game of chicken that Newt Gingrich played with Bill Clinton back in the 90s. The Congressional Republicans ended up getting burned that time and I think the Democrats are taking a similar risk.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 29, 2007 @ 12:59 pm
  3. Basically, it’s a higher stakes version of the game of chicken that Newt Gingrich played with Bill Clinton back in the 90s. The Congressional Republicans ended up getting burned that time and I think the Democrats are taking a similar risk.

    Huge differences:

    1) Clinton had the polling on his side, Bush does not.

    2) The Democrats’ restrictions are popular with the American people, while Bush’s conduct of the war is not.

    3) The media and blogs are on the Democrats’ side, where as Clinton had an allied media.

    4) The Bush administration is not the Clinton administration in political skills and communicating with the public and going over the media’s head. Tony Snow’s absence exacerbates the situation.

    5) Bush will have to contend with openly hostile media such as Keith Olbermann and the left-wing blogosphere and the major newspapers with millions of readers and viewers. Clinton only had to deal with Rush Limbaugh and he was easily marginalized.

    Comment by Kevin — March 29, 2007 @ 1:21 pm
  4. Kevin,

    All of what you say is correct, and I may be mis-interpreting the politics of this, but I guess we shall see. The one thing I think is significant is how close the votes were in both the House and the Senate. A few shifts of Democratic votes in either chamber could make a difference — and there were reports in the D.C. media this week that some conservative Democrats in the House were reluctant to toe the party line on anything stronger than what was passed.

    I do agree on one thing, though, the absence of Tony Snow will hurt the Bush Administration on more than just this issue.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 29, 2007 @ 1:59 pm
  5. Doug,

    A few shifts of Democratic votes in either chamber could make a difference — and there were reports in the D.C. media this week that some conservative Democrats in the House were reluctant to toe the party line on anything stronger than what was passed.

    That’s going to be the key, if conservative Dems stick with the leadership, than Pelosi and the anti-war Democrats have won. The Iraq War just simply won’t be funded and Bush will be blamed for it or he’ll be forced into accepting conditions.

    Also, regardless, I think many if not most of the US forces are coming out of Iraq in 2008. Bush has quietly made a deal with the Saudis (notice their sudden opposition to the US presence in Iraq) to pull them out and the “success” of the surge (in reality, the bad guys are just lying low until US troops leave) will give him political cover to withdraw.

    Comment by Kevin — March 29, 2007 @ 2:05 pm
  6. Politics And The Iraq War Funding Debate…

    Kevin and I have been having a discussion in the comment thread to my earlier post about the Senate’s passage of an Iraq War funding bill that contains a timetable for withdrawal. The basic question is whether the Bush Administration or the Democ…

    Trackback by The Liberty Papers — March 29, 2007 @ 2:31 pm
  7. [...] President Bush may feel like he’s under pressure for the 8 U.S. Attorney firings and the atrociously poor outcome of the Iraq Invasion but things are just starting to heat up. [...]

    Pingback by GOPOLI » Blog Archive » Democrats Plus Calcium Supplements Equals Showdown With Bush — April 2, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

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