Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iraq Withdrawal: A Congressional Endgame

In non-scandal news (except in the sense that our entire participation in the Iraqi occupation should be seen as scandalous), the Senate, by a 50-48 vote approved setting a pullout timeline as part of a spending bill, initially requested by President Bush, to allow him to continue his occupation.

The next step is for the Senate and House versions of this bill to go into discussions as to how they're differences may be reconciled before a final bill is submitted to the President. And while I've no idea what form that final reconciliation will take (will it have the Senate withdrawal timeline or the House's, will it contain some form of the troop readiness requirements propounded by John Murtha?), whatever its final form, the bill will certainly have some kind of withdrawal timeline included.

Bush has promised, as he did again today, to veto any bill conaining such a timeline.

One important point to note: Senate Republicans could have blocked that vote, but chose not to, preferring instead to hide behind rely upon Bush's veto pen to do the work for them. What this tells me is that Republicans are unwilling to be seen as the ones responsible for blocking this measure, they let it come to a vote, so they could be on record against, all the while knowing that their opposition wouldn't be the final say. Bush, in their calculations, will get that.

And keep in mind, Bush has said that a spending bill must be passed by April 15th (why does that date sound familiar?), else his war willl run low on money.

That all being said, here's my speculation on how this may play out.

Sometime in the next week or so a reconciled bill containing a withdrawal timeline of some sort will go to Bush.

At which point Bush will either cave, claiming the dire need for the funding, and reluctantly sign the measure, or he will veto it as promised. Since I doubt Bush will show the wisdom of accepting the out the Democratic Congress has given him ("I know the timeline's wrong, but we gotta have the money"), I expect him to veto.

At which point Republicans will have to face the decision which they only put off with yesterday's vote.

Because the FINAL decision doesn't rest with the President. It rests with them.

To date, the headlines that will have run are these:

  • "Congress Sends Emergency Spending Bill with Withdrawal Timeline to President."
  • "Bush Vetos Timeline Spending Bill"

The next headline is up to the Republicans, either:

  • "Congress Overrides Bush Veto: Troops to come home by March 2008"

  • "Republicans Back Bush, Kill Emergency Funding Bill: Troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely"

Given American sentiment on Iraq, and given that most of those same Republicans will be up for re-election in 2008, were I a Republican Congresscritter, I know which headline I'd rather see.

[UPDATE: The vote referred to above was technically on an amendment to the Senate's funding resolution, but which was, in effect, decisive, making the funding resolution's passsage inevitable, which it now has done, by a 51-47 vote-CK]

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