The Contra-Iraq Resolutions: Running out the Clock on the War

After Senate Republicans were accused by the media of "stalling" and "blocking" non-binding resolutions against the President’s troop surge the chore was passed off to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Now, Ms. Pelosi is happily spinning her wheels on the measure to gain distance for Democrats between the beginning of the surge and the planned failure they are engineering for its end.

They’re not playing for time; they’re running the clock out on the war.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) wanted a straight up or down vote on his resolution that opposed the surge. Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) led a contingent of Republicans that insisted on adding language to protect funding for the troops. Reid denied them and called his resolution for a cloture petition: Reid, who had declared he had more than 70 votes for his resolution, fell short of the 60 votes he needed to proceed.

Rather than give it another go with the Republicans, Reid shovel-passed the ball to Pelosi who is using special House rules to bring an iron-clad resolution to the floor impervious to any negotiation or amendment.

Democrats eagerly point out that they are allowing more time for debate on the 77-word resolution than was given to the 2002 Iraqi War resolution to authorize the President to use force in Iraq. Each member has been allotted five minutes of floor time to explain how they feel the resolution, but not change it.

So, what’s the point? It wouldn’t change the resolution one bit if Pelosi had called the bill for an immediate vote on Monday or decided to vote on it later today.

The point is that Pelosi and her allies need more time to convince the American public to end funding for the mission.  It’s a neat ploy, cleaner than stopping the funding now before the surge has a chance to work. 

A poll released yesterday by USA Today shows that 58% of Americans are still opposed to cutting off funding for the surge. As the post-election polls showed in November, most Americans want to change how the war is being fought, not declare defeat and come home.

Pelosi’s resolution has only two clauses. The first part purports to "continue to support and protect" troops and the second says that "Congress disapproves" of Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq.

An effort, led by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), to protect funding for the troops, was killed. Monday evening Pence testified before the House Rules Committee to ask that language be added as a substitute amendment Pelosi’s resolution that would pledge not to eliminate or reduce funding for the troops’ mission. It was nearly identical to the substitute amendment Sen. Judd Gregg offered to Reid that Senate leadership rejected. Similarly, Pence wasn’t permitted by the House Rules committee, chaired by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.), to offer his amendment.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R.-Calif.) who was one of the first members to use his five allotted minutes of floor time, said on Tuesday, "This is the beginning of withdrawal. That’s what the resolution, in effect, melted down says: this is the beginning of withdrawal despite the fact Iraq has not been stabilized."

While Pelosi’s "debate" blocks members from protecting funding, it helps her allies like Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.) organize plans to de-fund the war.

Right now, the President’s $100 billion supplemental spending bill for the war is headed for the House military appropriations committee — chaired by the anti-war critic Murtha. The Pennsylvania congressman has already indicated he will seek to attach specific conditions in order for the money to be released based on specific military readiness standards.

Murtha has promised, "I will make recommendations in the bill that hopefully will change the direction of the war." Murtha has said he will introduce a proposal on March 15 as an attachment to the President’s supplemental to do this. "The hope is we will affect the surge," he said.

On a February 11 appearance of Meet the Press House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Conn.) with Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio), Hoyer supported Murtha’s plans.

At one point, Boehner turned to Hoyer and said, “We all know — we all know what’s coming in the next month or so when we have the supplemental spending bill up."
When pressed, Hoyer said he wouldn’t link language to protect funding with Pelosi’s resolution because "[w]e don’t think that it ought to be confused by any other issues that might be raised."

Pelosi’s California colleague Rep. Maxine Waters (D.) was more forthcoming with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. On Hardball last week she said "the real test is whether or not you will continue to fund Bush’s war by voting for his appropriation" and that "our members are careful" to openly support a binding measure to cut funds for Iraqi operations.

And so, the newly-installed Democrat House, with an eye on 2008 and wary of acting too radically for the American public, is poised to incrementally end the war through backdoor mechanisms not as easy for the public to interpret as straight up or down vote.

Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi can’t call a vote to protect funding because their constituents would force them to do just that. Instead, they’d rather profess support for the troops before the CSPAN cameras stationed and cut them off by committee.

But, while the Democrat Congress spins their wheels to buy time to acclimate the public to their plans, American troops are moving. The President’s plan is proceeding. And, there’s a chance the military could come closer in meeting their benchmarks before the anti-war left succeeds in crippling our forces.

If they do, Pelosi’s resolution will have an embarrassing consequence: a clear tally of all her friends proven wrong about the surge.