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Democrats' Iraq Concession Reveal Deep Party Divisions

May 24, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

There is a lot of posturing going on over a seemingly simple vote that just went down in the House of Representatives. On the surface, the vote appears to simply set the rules under which consideration of the war-funding bill will take place. However, because of some complicated parliamentary maneuvering, the vote on the rule for consideration is far more significant than the vote on the funding bill itself — it ensures that Congress will send President Bush all the war funds he requested without a timeline for withdrawal and without any other strings attached.

The vote on the rule was approved by Democrats with a near party-line vote of 218-201. The rule establishes two things. First, that the funding bill cannot be brought to the floor with a timeline for troop withdrawal in it and cannot be amended to include a timeline, even one that the President could choose to ignore. Second, it requires two votes in September: one on a withdrawal timeline and the other a vote to de-authorize the war.

Officially, Democrats are claiming victory, citing the fact that the rule provides assurance of the two war-squelching votes in September.

But many liberal and rank-and-file Democrats, including (but not at all limited to) the handful in the House who voted against the rule, are dejected. They see the war-funding bill as no more than a capitulation to President Bush, who announced his approval of the bill this morning.

The 216 Democrats that voted on the rule, which sets up the sure passage of the “clean” war-funding bill, did so because they were afraid that if they sent President Bush a funding bill that includes a withdrawal timeline — and he decided to veto it — they would be blamed for abandoning U.S. troops.

The funding bill itself is almost surely going to pass. Republicans will jump at the chance to approve a clean war-fundng bill, and enough Democrats, again fearful of being portrayed as troops abandoners, will join them to vote for it.

Matt Stoller of MyDD argues that Democrats had the upper hand, that the President was weakened, and that their fear and concessions are misplaced:

>There’s no evidence that Bush moves numbers anymore. In fact, when he talks he becomes less popular. He has no credibility, which means that his access to the bully pulpit is severely diminished. Yet Democrats are afraid of him. More than that, Democratic members think that by capitulating to him that Republicans will stop saying that Democrats won’t fund the troops. It’s crazy. It’s like they didn’t notice the 2002 election where they were like ‘we can take Iraq off the table’.

Consider how a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R, OH), who voted against the rule, still manages to see that the Democrats have thrown in the towel, and takes a stab while they are down (via Congress Daily):

>"If the Out of Iraq Caucus votes for this rule they are complicit in trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their friends. They can’t have it both ways, and if gives them a pass on this rule it demonstrates just how much of a Democratic puppet it really is." did not “give them a pass on this rule.” They lobbied against it. Still, Boehner’s point, that Democrats are “trying to pull the wool over the eyes” of their constituents, stands up. Stoller of MyDD identifies the secret that the Democratic leadership is trying to hide:

>The key take-away here is that the Democratic Party is degraded and disorganized.

Robert Naiman comes to much of the same conclusion:

>Reid and Pelosi want to maintain the story that they are in charge of something called “Democrats.” They want to deflect the blame onto “Republicans.” They don’t want to acknowledge that the “Republicans” who are the problem are part of the “Democratic” caucus. They prefer to be denounced as wimps than to acknowledge that they can’t compel “Democrats” to conform to the will of Democratic voters.

The roll call on the rule vote can be seen here. I’ll update as soon as the vote on the bill itself takes place.

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