A last-ditch effort to win this baby and come home with honor? Nah. Politics.
House Democrats are pushing to add billions of dollars to President Bush’s $93.4 billion request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $900 million for troops suffering from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
An additional $2.5 billion would go to strengthen training and readiness for forces not deployed in war zones, and $1.4 billion would go to address housing allowance shortfalls…
The Democratic add-ons for military health care, readiness and mine-resistant vehicles are aimed in part at making the bill more attractive to lawmakers, including Republicans who might be considering voting against the measure over language that would curb deployments of troops to Iraq who have had insufficient rest or training or who already had served there for more than a year.
In other words, they’re trying to feed Bush a poison pill; the question is how much tasty pork they have to wrap it in before he and the GOP will bite down. Spending on troop health care is as tasty as it gets, but ironically it’s not Republicans who are Pelosi’s main problem right now. The far left is demanding that the bill include a deadline for withdrawal; conservative Democrats are balking. The result:
If the Democratic leadership puts a date certain for withdrawal in the bill, there’s a chance that enough Blue Dog Democrats would defect and vote with Republicans, meaning the bill could go down to defeat outright. While that might suit anti-war lawmakers and groups, the political consequences could be disastrous for the party. It would end the Iraq war by default since there would be no more money for combat operations, and Republicans would punish the Democrats for years over it.
But if she leaves out a date-certain withdrawal, Pelosi may lose her left, and that’s her power base, both within the Democratic Caucus and the party at large. She faces a very ticklish task sorting the whole thing out, although the senior Democrat lawmaker isn’t worried. Pelosi “will get everyone on board at the end of the day,” the lawmaker insisted.
The proposed compromise is a diluted version of Murtha’s slow bleed except instead of funding being cut off if troops are deployed without having met certain readiness levels, Bush would have the option of waiving the necessary certifications — as long as he does so publicly. They’re willing to continue paying for the war they hate, in other words; they just want to keep Bush’s face on the mission and make sure KIAs going forward can be blamed on inadequate training (a la Murtha blaming Haditha on “fatigue”) instead of enemy action. WaPo doesn’t think the MoveOn crowd is going to go for it, though, so benchmarks are being added in hopes of winning them over:
Under those benchmarks, which Bush laid out in a speech to the nation Jan. 10, the Iraqi government would have to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November, and adopt and implement oil-revenue-sharing legislation. The government would also have to spend $10 billion of Iraq’s money on job-creating reconstruction and infrastructure projects; hold new provincial elections this year; liberalize laws that purged Baath Party members from the government; and establish a fairer process for amending the Iraqi constitution.
If those benchmarks are not met, Democrats would demand Bush submit to Congress a timetable for withdrawing troops, leadership aides said. The idea is to force Bush to abide by his own promises but to make sure he remains responsible for conducting and ending the war.
Exit question: The insidery Politico piece about Democratic wrangling linked above was written by John Bresnahan. I guess that public display of shinola-eating by the editor over the term “slow bleed” did the trick, huh?
Update: Influence Peddler says Pelosi might appease the anti-war caucus by giving them a token vote that’s sure to fail on cutting off funds.
Update: Politico‘s hearing something similar, except it’s not funds that’ll be voted on. It’s a timetable:
House Democratic leaders, seeking a compromise with several dozen anti-war lawmakers in their own caucus, are considering a vote on a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq before considering $98 billion in new military spending.
In return for the vote, the leaders want the 50 to 75 anti-war Democrats to support the wartime funding, if their proposal fails.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leaders face an uprising from liberal Democrats opposed to the wartime supplemental. If they allow a House floor vote to set a withdrawal date, it would be the first such vote in either the House or the Senate since the Democrats took control of Congress in January. And it would mark a new phase in the political struggle over the conflict…
These [anti-war] Democrats opposed the war since its start and, despite the new Democratic majority in the House, are not at all eager to vote for the new war funds. Supporting the money, they argue, would give them “ownership” of the war along with Bush and the Republicans in Congress.