Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Iraq Debate: Politics as Usual

Funny how the Dems in the Senate are now bellowing obstructionism after spending many of the past few years justifying their obstructionism. And the Repubs obstructing when the complained so loudly about obstructions to the debates previously.
New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg yesterday jumped into a Senate fray over non-binding resolutions on the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.

As senators struggled yesterday to agree on whether to have floor votes on several Iraq-related measures, Gregg unveiled a new resolution neither supporting nor opposing the Bush administration's "surge" in combat troops, but putting the Senate on record opposing any cut in funds that support the troops.

Republican Gregg said yesterday he has "deep reservations" about the Bush troop surge, but does not support cutting funding.

His resolution states that Congress should give U.S. troops "all the support they need in order to maintain their safety and accomplish their assigned missions."

It says, "It is the sense of Congress that Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field, as such action with respect to funding would undermine their safety or harm their effectiveness in pursing their assigned missions."

In a statement, Gregg said, "As someone who is frustrated with the mistakes that have been made in the war effort and who has deep reservations about the President's plan for changing course in Iraq, I understand the need to have this debate.

"However," Gregg said, "we must also take stock of our responsibilities in the war effort and give the public and the troops that are fighting for us a clear indication of how we will wield the one power that we incontrovertibly have: the power of the purse."

Gregg said his resolution "is very straightforward, focusing solely on supporting the troops and not cutting off funding for soldiers in the field, now or in the future. It is imperative that we send a message to the troops fighting for us that we are also fighting for them and supporting them in their efforts to protect us and our country."

Gregg said that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has often called for open debate, "and I hope he takes his own counsel and allows this resolution to be considered and voted on this week."

Gregg opposes a resolution written by Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, but backed by Democrats, that opposes the troop surge.
Personally I love Gregg's move. It completely throws a wrench into the works by ensuring that if they decide to push this foolish non-binding resolution forward they will have to vote on one that clearly states that no support for the troops can be withdrawn. I have no doubts that the Dems are going to see how they can torpedo this one, but I'm really hoping for diligence on the part of the Repubs.

Seems that both of the NH Senators are playing it right.
The Senate voted last night on a motion to invoke cloture - or end debate - on a non-binding bill introduced by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that aims to express the sense of Congress on Iraq.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., said a vote to end debate would have prevented the Senate from fully considering the bill, ending the opportunity for debate on a number of resolutions, including Gregg's.

Sununu said to ensure a full debate, he voted "no" on the motion to proceed.

"I voted no on today's motion because the Democratic leadership is refusing to allow an open debate that considers a range of proposals and amendments," Sununu said in a written statement last night. "Unfortunately, that only makes this process even more partisan and divisive.
Of course, the net outcome is no motion at all.

Slate has an interesting opinion on this mess.
Almost all the papers lead with Republican senators voting to block debate on the nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq. "Both parties immediately moved to gain political advantage from the impasse," notes USA Today. Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to avoid discussing the war, while GOP senators insisted they are willing to debate the war but do not want to be treated unfairly. The vote was largely along party lines with just two Republicans, who happen to be facing reelection in 2008, siding with the democrats.
But what actually caused the impasse? The Washington Post does the best job of explaining the intricacies of the debate. Here's the gist: there are four resolutions and the issue turns around which ones to allow for a vote and how many votes will be needed to approve each one. Republicans want all four resolutions to require 60 votes. Why? Mainly because of a resolution introduced by Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire that is supportive of Bush and says Congress shouldn't cut funding for troops in the field. They all know it'd be difficult for many Democrats to vote against the measure and so it would likely be the only one that would get 60 votes. Democrats say if all four resolutions come up, they should require a majority vote.

Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to bring up Iraq again and again until Republicans allow the vote to take place. The NYT quotes Republican Sen. John Sununu saying he recognized that the public would likely be unhappy by all this infighting. "It may come as a surprise to my colleagues, but most voting members of the American public think that the Senate spends all too much time talking and not enough time casting votes," Sununu said. Wonder where they get that idea?

The problem really comes down to that the Dems are refusing to allow any debate on any amendments. Why should the Repubs let them have a free walk on this "debate" since it is clearly not a debate at all but the Dems trying to force, repeatedly, a resolution with their words alone and on their terms alone. If Reid really wanted a debate, then he'd have no issue with debating all of the resolutions. No doubt, he is in no way going to allow such a debate to occur on the floor. I don't agree with Sununu on the vote vs talk thing. If the Dems allowed a vote on all the resolutions, then there would be something to that argument, but since Reid will only allow debate on the anti-surge resolution, and will repress all others, it clearly isn't a debate.

Well, at least they're consistent.

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