Thursday, May 3, 2007

Politics as Usual and Iraq

With all of the partisan posturing over the vetoed Iraq funding bill, we're all now witness to American party politics as usual at its worst. On the one side we have the Republicans, many whom in the recent past put their party above soldiers' lives, taxpayer dollars, and oversight. They threatened fellow Republicans who didn't tow the line, and ultimately are responsible for Iraq. On the other side we have the Democrats, who by working so hard on a bill everyone knew would get vetoed have put a serious dent in their credibility as the party of change.

I've gone after the authoritarian Republican leadership and their whipping boys enough. What really frustrated me with this bill is that the Democrats went in the wrong direction. Today, everybody is talking about compromise and having a new bill to the President in two weeks. My question has been, with this legislation since the beginning, why aren't they even trying to work with the other side? The AP had this today:

"Obviously the president would prefer a straight funding bill, no benchmarks, no conditions, no reports. Many of us on both sides of the aisle don't agree with that," said Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine. She expressed interest in a proposal to cut reconstruction aid to Iraq if the Baghdad government does not live up to its promises.

Collins' sentiment was echoed by several House Republicans, who said that while they had cast their votes to sustain the veto, they wanted to signal impatience with a war that is unpopular with the public, and also with the administration's policy. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not yet ready to differ publicly with the White House.
With 17 House Republicans already being comfortable enough to vote for the non-binding resolution opposing Bush's surge, these sources probably mean there are more Republicans getting to the point the American people were at last Election Day. If only because of his floor speech on the non-binding resolution, I doubt Representative Scott Garrett is one of those anonymous members. I would applaud his coming to grips with reality if he was. The reason I bring him up is important, and not just a gratuitous dig.

The bill strengthening small business loans Garrett voted against was strongly opposed by the White House, yet it passed with nearly a 100 vote cushion over what would be needed to override a veto. The House voted to improve Head Start yesterday, and Garrett was one of 48 to do what the White House asked and vote against the reform. Yet, there is still an 80 vote cushion (more not voting on this one). The point of bringing these votes up is that despite the President's objections, these Bills passed by huge bi-partisan margins because of bi-partisan cooperation.

With the Democrats not starting from a position of bi-partisanship on Iraq and pushing for a bill that would have gotten results, their actions amount to pure political posturing. Without yesterday's veto, they couldn't have had their press releases, soundbites, pointed to the fourth anniversary of the Mission Accomplished speech, or given the special interest groups a bill they could use to fire-up the attack ad machines.

Americans didn't vote the Democrats into office to pass veto certain bills, or because they liked reading or hearing their sound bites. Americans voted for the Democrats because they were ready for a lot of changes, most prominently Iraq. In the month since the bill was passed in both Houses until it was vetoed Tuesday, at least 104 soldiers lost their lives.

Ending the war responsibly takes 289 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate. Get to work.

No comments: