I thought it was to get us out of Iraq the soonest, safest way possible. Guess not:
Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.
Bush, who has already vetoed one spending bill with a troop timeline, had threatened to do the same with the next version if it came with such a condition.
Pelosi declares herself "disappointed" (which makes me wonder what she's doing to earn her keep as Speaker), and says she thinks she might vote against it. Well, that's something, I suppose.
Feingold, ahead of the pack and practically talking to himself, as usual, stated early and plainly that he'd vote against the "compromise" bill, with its idle talk of "18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government."
Under the President’s Iraq policies, our military has been over-burdened, our national security has been jeopardized, and thousands of Americans have been killed or injured. Despite these realities, and the support of a majority of Americans for ending the President’s open-ended mission in Iraq, congressional leaders now propose a supplemental appropriations bill that does nothing to end this disastrous war. I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.
[Emphasis added.] Considering Bush is taking steps to double his "surge" in Iraq without congressional approval, why would anyone imagine that "benchmarks" will matter? When the time comes, Bush's people will say they're showing "progress" against the benchmarks, every other expert on the planet will say they're quite obviously not, the media will give it "on the one hand, on the other hand" coverage, and people will actually take Arlen Specter seriously when he says he's "going to get to the bottom of this" and promises that "heads will roll."
I keep looking for some indication that the Dems have some larger strategy, beyond accommodating Bush when he holds his breath and threatens to turn blue. But I'm not seeing it. Reid insists that this supplemental bill is "not a blank check," but it's hard to view it any other way.
(Maha at Mahablog is a little more charitable--a little--arguing that Reid and Pelosi can't do much until they get more pro-war Dems and Republicans on board to rein Bush in, and that, in the meantime, this bill should be voted down. Update: Aravosis at AmericaBlog isn't buying it: He argues--pretty convincingly--that if being accused of defunding the troops is political poison, that ought to be doubly so for Mr. Veto.)
May has not seen much to be proud of from the Democrats: First they folded on another key issue that ushered them into power this term: ethics reform. And they're tied up in immigration (un)reform that no one will be happy with, if it even manages to make it to a vote.
Now they've presented an appropriations bill that appears to all-but-strangle any chance of meaningful change in Iraq policy before Bush leaves office. Vote this dog down.
(Images via Crooks and Liars and the Australian Real Estate Blog.)