Ahead of Iraq Negotiations, the Public Sides With CongressApril 17, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
Remember in March when Congress passed a bill that set an end date for the Iraq war? Well, the President didn’t like it and he says he is going to veto it. But it hasn’t happened yet. The bill is still in the negotiating stage, but, despite public opinion strongly on the side of Congress, it doesn’t look like Bush is going to budge.
On Wednesday, Democratic leaders Harry Reid (D, NV) and Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) (that’s them on the right) will accept an invitation to meet with President Bush to discuss the supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war. Both chambers of Congress have approved President Bush’s request for the nearly $100 billion in supplemental funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, besides providing the funds for the war, Congress voted to include in the bill a September 2008 date for U.S. troop withdrawal, a series of benchmarks for the Iraqi government, as well additional funding for veteran’s health care, Katrina recovery, drought relief, and several other domestic priorities. All of these provisions that go beyond what the President had asked for, have prompted him to repeatedly threaten to veto the entire bill, funds and all.
The House and Senate bills have some minor differences that are currently being worked out in order to present a single Congress-approved bill to the President. On Monday, in preparation for the talks, Bush made it clear that he does not have any intention of actually negotiating with the Democratic leaders:
>"I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and spend billions on projects not related to the war."
Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also stated on Monday that he plans to stand firm at the meeting:
>"The offer is that the President sign our bill."
When it comes down to it, it is possible that either the President or the Democratic leaders (or both) could loosen up and actually attempt to work out a compromise. Playing hardball like this is, after all, the only smart way to approach negotiations. Neither party would want to give up the upper hand before the meeting has even begun.
As far as the public is concerned, two new polls suggest that the majority of Americans thinks that Bush should be the one to cave in, not the Congressional Democratic leaders. From the ABC poll:
>Democrats appear to be standing on firm political ground, as they work toward a final bill. A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,141 adults, conducted April 12-15, found that 58 percent trusted the Democrats in Congress to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq, compared with 33 percent who trusted Bush.
A CBS poll released on Monday asked, “Which of these comes closest to your opinion? (1) Congress should block all funding for the war in Iraq no matter what. OR, (2) Congress should allow funding only for a limited period of time. OR, (3) Congress should allow all funding for the war in Iraq without a time limit.” Of 994 adults surveyed, 61 percent believe that Congress should allow funding only for a limited period of time — which is what the Congress-approved bill would do — while 30 percent believe that Congress should allow all funding for the war in Iraq without a time limit — which is what the President wants it to do.