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Stakes Increase In Congressional Battle Over Iraq

February 23, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Democratic Senators Joe Biden (DE) and Carl Levin (MI) will be returning from recess on Tuesday the 27th, ready to place their new Iraq resolution on the table. Their new plan is different from the non-binding resolutions that have been repeatedly blocked from debate in the Senate — if approved, it would actually become law. The plan calls for Congress’ 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq to be replaced with an obligation to begin deploying the majority of U.S. troops out of Iraq by March, 2008.

The big question is when this plan is going to be presented. There are a couple of options: it could be presented as an amendment to the bill to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, the first bill the Senate will consider after their recess, or it could be held and presented later, as an amendment to the supplemental war funding bill that the President has submitted to Congress. The decision likely depends upon whether or not Republican senators present an amendment to the above-mentioned 9/11 Commission bill, sponsored by Judd Gregg (R-NH), which states that Congress will not withhold funds from the Iraq war. Democrats want to keep the option of cutting funds for the war open for use in the future. The political and legal ramifications of how this plays out are much larger now that the issue at hand is a legally binding resolution.

The Levin-Biden plan, and the entirety of any bill that contains it as an amendment, will be vetoed by the President. There is no doubt about that. The actual question is which bill, the 9/11 Commission recommendations or the war supplemental, is going to be vetoed along with it.

The bill to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations has general bipartisan support, and both parties have a lot invested in it. Neither would want it vetoed, but the Democrats are not going to allow the Gregg amendment to go through on it either. Joe Biden is likely to be especially concerned with passing the 9/11 bill. It could be devastating for his 2008 presidential campaign to be one of the authors of an amendment that caused such an important bill to be vetoed. This 9/11 bill is, after all, the senate version of the house bill that was symbolically assigned the number H.R.1, and the first considered in the 100 Hour Plan. That is how important this bill is to the Democratic platform.

But arguably of equal importance to Democrats is putting Republicans on record against limiting or ending the war in Iraq. This could be used against senate Republicans up for re-election in 2008, when Democrats hope to pick up some more seats in the senate.

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