A Purely Symbolic Shot Across The Bow
The United States Senate joined the House today and passed an Iraq War spending bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal of American troops:
The Senate today gave final approval to a $124 billion war spending bill that requires troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin by Oct. 1, with a goal of ending U.S. combat operations there by next March.
President Bush has pledged to veto the bill, and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino promised this morning he would act “very soon.”
The Senate approved the measure by a 51-46 vote, a day after the House passed the bill by 218-208, brushing aside weeks of angry White House rhetoric and veto threats.
“It is time to end the loss of American lives and to begin to bring our soldiers home,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said on Senate floor this morning. “For the sake of our troops we cannot repeat the mistakes of Vietnam and allow this to drag on long after the American people know it’s a mistake.”
Today’s vote completes work on the rarest of bills: legislation to try to end a major war as fighting still rages. Democrats hope to send the measure to the White House on Monday, almost exactly four years after President Bush declared an end to major combat in a speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. That would be a particularly pungent political anniversary for Bush to deliver only the second veto of his presidency.
The problem is that, just as Bush’s landing on the Lincoln and standing below the “Mission Accomplished” banner was a purely political stunt, this spending bill is also a purely political stunt. The Democrats know that the President is going to veto this legislation and it’s fairly obvious that they do not have the votes to override the veto.
As I’ve noted before, this leaves the Democrats with two alternatives. Either they refuse to pass any supplemental war funding bill at all, meaning that money to fund the war will run out sometime in July. Or, they take the timetable language out of the bill (or turn it into a “suggestion” that either side can do with what they wish) and use the President’s veto as a political tool in 2008.
As I’ve also noted, it seems clear that while the public wants the war to end, they don’t support withholding funds from the troops while they are still there fighting.
Given this, it’s clear that what the Democrats are engaged in here is a purely political stunt and they will blink at some point in the future. That doesn’t mean it’s a dumb move politically, of course, but they should at least be honest about what they’re doing.