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Senate Shapes Up on Iraq, Decidedly Remains Shapeless

May 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The new “short leash” plan for Iraq will hit the House floor tomorrow, but a major question about Congress’s follow-up Iraq plan still remains unanswered: what’s going to happen in the Senate?

Earlier in the week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) was saying that he needed more time to look over the House’s plan, and added, “nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in.” Now, the Politico’s blog, The Crypt, is reporting that Reid hardly cares what bill the Senate votes on. He just wants to get something to conference.

>In the Senate, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten met privately with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The three planed to introduce a new bill next week, Democratic sources said. [that’s Bolten on the right, leaving the meeting]
>Democrats in that chamber have adopted a “get to conference” strategy in which the Senate will pass any bill that Republicans would accept provided its “not a blank check,” these sources said. But the Senate will not vote on legislation the House will vote on Thursday.

Getting something to conference quickly is a good idea; it could avoid a Republican filibuster and it free up more time for the Senate as a whole to deal with important and pressing domestic issues like immigration reform. And anyways, much of the negotiating already happens behind the scenes in smaller groups, before a proposal is brought to the floor and after, when the Senate and House conferees meet to agree on a single plan.

The plan that the conference committee finally agrees on will go back to the two chambers for final votes from all members before being sent to the President.

Congress Daily (subscription required) has the scoop on one possibility for beginning senate debate:

>Senate moderates floated their own compromise measure that would tie continuation of the U.S. troop buildup to a series of national reconciliation benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. That version is sponsored by Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. Under their plan, the Iraqis would have to assume control of their military, disarm and demobilize sectarian militias, hold local elections and a referendum on constitutional changes designed to ensure participation of all religious and ethnic groups and pass laws to share oil revenues.

Also, the two bills that comprise the House’s “short leash” plan are now up on OpenCongress:

H.R. 2206 provides the two chunks of war funds, requires the President to report back about progress in Iraq, raises the minimum wage, and includes some small business tax cuts.

H.R.2207 provides funds for a slew of unrelated domestic purposes including rural county payments, relief for drought-stricken farmers, and wildland fire management.

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