The Non-Binding Congress

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not vote on a plan for Iraq.

The committee did not vote to cut funding for the troops, either. Nor, did it vote to cap, cut or redeploy troops from Iraq.

In fact, the committee worked to “send the President a message” that the November elections didn’t and the media won’t: That post-election polls show about 60% of Americans don’t want to cut and run from Iraq.

The measure is a non-binding resolution drafted by Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.), Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.). The legislation was written to express a “Sense of the Senate” that “it is not of the interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United State’s military force in Iraq.”

It offers no recourse, no alternative plan or strategy for success. It only tells the President, “we don’t like your troop surge.” More importantly, it allows legislators to make a statement without consequence. Democrats won control of the Senate largely by opposing President Bush’s Iraq policy. Now, they have the political power, but still lack the courage to do anything about it.

“It is his war,” they say.

Should the non-plan advance, each senator will then be able to “sense” in a floor vote if he or she is opposed to President Bush’s proposal to send 21,500 more American troops to Iraq.

But, the world’s greatest deliberative body will not consider just one way to opine on the troop surge. A bipartisan alliance, led by Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) takes issue with Biden, Levin and Hagel’s use of the word “escalating” and recently presented a rival non-binding resolution.

Warner’s resolution says, “The Senate disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President to instead consider all options and alternatives for achieving goals…with reduced force levels than proposed.” (Apparently, one of the few things the Senate can do is parse the differences between “surge,” “escalate” and “augment.”)

After the Senate agrees on what message it should send the President, the House will follow suit and schedule similar non-consequential activities.

Debating resolutions to “sending the President a message” is a charade. Americans who lack the power of legislators are sending him all-time low poll numbers. In case Bush forgets this, he has many new Democrat messengers who removed his Republican friends on Capitol Hill to remind him.

These resolutions are futile exercises in making this non-binding Congress relevant.

President Bush, who has the constitutional authority to order more troops into Iraq has done so. They are already moving to Baghdad and operations are being paid for out of this year’s budget.

If the Congress chooses to do so, it could check the President through power of the purse. This would mean rejecting the expected supplemental bill from the White House and starving the troops of funds for their missions later this year.

Republicans seriously interested in advancing the debate should confront Democrats on this question. Instead of getting members on the record “agreeing” or “disagreeing” with Bush’s troop surge, Republicans should firmly be asking, “Will you fund his plan, or not?”

Even the hyper liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take responsibility for real action. She told Dianne Sawyer in an interview last week, “The President knows that because the troops are in harm’s way that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way.”

Although her reasoning defies logic it shows most members of Congress, save the likes of Teddy Kennedy, do not want to be on the record cutting off supplies to Iraq.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) asked Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus in his confirmation hearing to become top commander in Iraq if resolutions disapproving of Bush’s troop surge would encourage enemies in Iraq.

“That’s correct,” he said. “This is a test of will.” He added that as commander he needed for “the enemy to feel that there is no hope.”

The Congress should stop debating how to give enemies hope. A working majority should be formed by those who pledge not to cut funding for the President’s plan and who will work with him to achieve victory in Iraq.

We can and should debate the merits of the Iraq surge, but George Bush has made a decision and he deserves the chance to make his new strategy work.