Breaking: Senate passes Iraq timetable; Update: NYT reporter fears limitless violence if troops withdraw

Mild surprise in the final tally. As you’ll recall, the amendment to strip the timetable from the bill was defeated 50-48 on Tuesday. The Dems picked up an extra vote somewhere today. Probably Mark Pryor’s.

Standby for updates. While you wait, who wrote this?

The withdrawal language is wrongheaded. As we have argued before, it is bad precedent and bad public policy for Congress to attempt to micromanage military operations in Iraq. As Bush said Wednesday: “It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C., to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away.”…

If a majority of the people’s representatives conclude that the effort to stabilize Iraq has failed, then Congress should vote to cut off war funding. That is its constitutional privilege. But a willingness to wait even a few months to see the results of the surge strategy, followed if necessary by a meaningful threat to cut off funding for combat by a specific date, is more likely to focus Iraqi minds than the current, purely political, play.

The U.S. has a moral obligation (as well as a national interest) to leave Iraq as quickly as possible with a stable government in place. This resolution won’t end U.S. involvement in Iraq. But it may help persuade Iraqis to end the violence.


Update: Solid piece here from the LAT mapping out the maneuvering to come. A compromise bill with the timetable intact is expected on Bush’s desk by mid-April; he’ll veto it, with a standoff expected to continue possibly until August, which at least will give the surge a chance. What about funding in the meantime? Quote: “One tool the Democrats could use would be to pass temporary spending extensions, known as continuing resolutions, for 30 days or so at a time. That would enable them to avoid the charge that they have cut off funding for the troops while keeping the heat on the White House to compromise.”

Update: Bush cowboy’d up this morning before the vote:

The vote came shortly after Bush, in a move that his aides said was unprecedented, invited all House Republicans to the White House to appear with him in a sort of pep rally to bolster his position in the continuing war policy fight.

“We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we’ve got a troop in harm’s way, we expect that troop to be fully funded,” Bush said, surrounded by Republicans on the North Portico, “and we got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders.”

Update: Yup, Pryor switched. Here’s the roll. Straight party line except for Liebs, Gordon Smith, and the future Republican Party nominee for president, Chuck “Fredo” Hagel.

Update: Nice grab by the ‘Busters. Iraq correspondent extraordinaire John Burns, this morning on “Today”:

LAUER: What do you think happens if there’s a date certain set for that withdrawal?

BURNS: If United States troops stay, there will be mounting casualties and costs for the American taxpayer. If they leave, I think from the perspective of watching this war for four years or more in Baghdad, there’s no doubt that the conflict could get a great deal worse very quickly, and we’d see levels of suffering and of casualties amongst Iraqis that potentially could dwarf the ones we’ve seen to this point.”

And later: “Most would agree there is a civil war, but a countervaling force exercised principally by Americans but also other coalition troops is a very significant factor that leaves the potential for a considerable worsening once you remove that countervaling force. . . Remove that countervaling force and there will be no limit to this violence.”