Ending The Iraq Debacle: What the Senate Can Do, What the House Should Do

Taylor Marsh and Matt Stoller demonstrate their commitment and focus on ending the Iraq Debacle is there. But I think they also demonstrate their understanding of the issue is not quite there.

Marsh and Stoller take Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to task for saying, as Marsh describes it:

Mr. Reid will continue to fund the Iraq war. Period. He said so emphatically last night on "Charlie Rose." Of course, he did give a verbal nod to senators wanting to "look" at the funding issue, but he said the Senate will continue the "tradition" of funding war. Simply stated, Harry Reid will not be the first majority leader in U.S. Senate history to break with that "tradition." Constitutional checks and balances on a runaway commander in chief mean nothing to the senator. So on the war will rage until Mr. Bush decides to end it. That is our fate as it stands today.

Can Harry Reid singlehandedly fund the war? Or stop funding the war? Can the Senate? The answer is the Senate can singlehandedly stop the funding of the war but it cannot singlehandedly fund the war.

Marsh says:

But last night Mr. Reid sealed the deal in his refusal to act only through the "process" of legislation on the war. It makes him responsible for the war, because he is willingly allowing it to continue. It's called complicity, because by his very inaction he is choosing. Sweet words of calm delivery and his soothing cadence cannot hide this fact. Unfortunately, he has also doomed Democrats on Iraq, because the American people have spoken and the House can't do anything without him.

This is the fundamental misunderstanding of how defunding can work. To enact any piece of legislation to defund the war, the following must occur. It must be passed by the House and Senate, and signed by the President OR approved by 2/3 of the House and Senate. I believe it is absurd to believe that either of these things will happen.

So how come I am so stridently for defunding? How would it work? I have had this to say about that before:

I want to address the central defense presented for Obama's opposition to defunding the Iraq Debacle, that legislative realities make it impossible. To wit:
. . . In the Senate you still need 60 votes. . .
Indeed, count up to 67 to overcome a Bush veto. And this is precisely why Obama is full of it on this. NO LEGISLATION ending the Iraq Debacle can overcome this reality. That is why Obama's proposal, Murtha's proposal, Sestak's proposal, etc. are all bullspit. I am for defunding the war because it requires precisely NO passage of any laws, rather the ensuring that no laws are passed that fund the Iraq Debacle. The defunding bar is in fact the lowest we can hurdle, and thus the one REALISTIC proposal for ending the Iraq Debacle.

Defunding is a plan to do nothing on funding Iraq after a date certain. Taylor Marsh misunderstands this it seems to me. Reid need not do anything. Pelosi is the person to look for.

And what she needs to is ANNOUNCE the defunding date ahead of time in order to explain this to the American People. And that is where the Progressive Caucus comes in:

Okay, here are some more signs that the House Dem leadership is facing a backstage challenge from its liberal members over its plan to confront the White House over its request for more funds for the war.

I've just learned that Dem Reps. Barbara Lee, Jerrold Nadler, Maurice Hinchey and other key members of the House Dems' progressive caucus are planning to send out tonight a "dear colleague" letter to other members that will seek to build support among colleagues for an alternate approach to the one being pushed by the House leadership.

The alternate approach originated with Lee, who's also a member of the Out of Iraq caucus and who is proposing an amendment to the House leadership's current plan. The amendment would only allow financing to protect American troops in Iraq pending a full pull-out according to an established timetable. The idea would be to frame the proposal as "fully funding withdrawal," rather than as defunding the war effort. While some of these ideas have been made public, the new plan to start seriously rounding up support has not.

This alternate approach has the backing of a number of key House progressives, all of whom are expected to sign the letter.

This is on the heels of these developments:

About 30 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus met Thursday to plot strategy. They warned that they might vote against any supplemental bill that did not more strictly limit the president’s options, a vote that could prove embarrassing for a Democratic leadership trying to preserve a fragile majority. “Nothing is going to happen unless we use the power of the purse,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. “It’s time to draw a line in the sand.”

It is the House that will end the war, not the Senate. And understand this is about ending the war, not identifying primary targets, as Stoller seems to think:

So what outside groups need is, as Congressman Nadler said, a 'line in the sand'. That line is Murtha's plan. If members of Congress are not going to protect the troops and are not going to work to end the war, that's a voting issue for the public. We can't though vote on the war within the primary system if we don't know who stands where. So Murtha's plan should be brought to a vote, and voted down so the public can know where their representatives stand. Is Ellen Tauscher really that bad? Well where does she stand on the Murtha plan? Or Henry Cuellar, a whip in the Democratic caucus? Or any other members? We don't know, because they don't have to make the choice publicly.

The threat of a primary is not the goal - ending the Debacle is. I think Matt knows this and perhaps his language is intended to exert maximum pressure.

In any event, the Murtha Plan is not the line in the sand, it is only a first step. The Progressive Caucus' plan is more ambitious clearly. And thanks to them for that.

< Open Thread | Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey on "Fully Funded Withdrawal" >
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  • Display: Sort:
    What you're saying is (5.00 / 6) (#1)
    by brainwave on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 07:57:55 PM EST
    this - defunding as ceasing to fund - is already the plan of the Out of Iraq caucus? Then there is hope indeed. Excellent points!

    It is the plan (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:37:29 PM EST
    It is all about political framing now.

    See Woolsey's post from daily kos , posted here by me.


    I see (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:26:54 PM EST
    Great post. Now I understand what you have been talking about.

    I think it is a great strategy, politics at its best.

    Great! (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:36:48 PM EST
    I think the PRogressive Caucus is getting it too.

    Followed you over (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:27:50 PM EST
    What do you think of the language that some are using now to describe the Progressive caucus plan (fully funded withdrawal)?

    Thanks for coming over (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:36:22 PM EST
    As for what I think, I stole the post.

    See the latest post.


    You said stole (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by TexDem on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:42:42 PM EST

    Heh (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:53:16 PM EST

    Following You (5.00 / 5) (#17)
    by vcmvo2 on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:56:35 PM EST
    A lot of people will be popping up here just to read you. You have a devoted following- deservedly so!

    Oh and excellent post as usual!


    Thanks for coming (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 11:47:05 PM EST
    If folks do this, I peomise to comment for the requisite one hour period after posting.

    We'll bring a little bit of dkos to Talk Left.


    Law of unintended (intended?) consequences (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 12:04:27 AM EST
    Some of us haven't forgotten the darkness of 2005. Keep 'em coming.

    I thought I'd bring a bit of a glow (5.00 / 3) (#24)
    by Light Emitting Pickle on Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 12:37:18 AM EST
    I really appreciated your commentaries on Lawrence Summers (back in my lurking days). I've enjoyed your diaries (and comments in TC - heh) over the few months I've been a regular a dkos. So, I figured I'd sign up over here and keep up with your analysis.

    Thanks for coming (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 12:48:44 AM EST
    Do I get a cookie?! n/t (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by andgarden on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:59:03 PM EST
    We give 5s here (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:56:21 PM EST
    Muc h  fancier than those old school 4s.

    But does it go to 11?! n/t (5.00 / 4) (#15)
    by andgarden on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:06:34 PM EST
    Heh (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:59:17 PM EST
    So to use the proper frame/title/meme (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by TexDem on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:40:32 PM EST
    The House announces a date certain that they will fund the withdrawal. This date will give the Progressive Caucus a date to sell the Public that the administration has until that date to withdraw the troops.
    Did I get that right?

    Important that they repeat, funding the withdrawal, funding the withdrawal. Lather rinse repeat until complete.

    That is how Rep. W oolsey (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 08:52:29 PM EST
    presents it.

    I don't see it ending the war (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Coldblue on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:00:47 PM EST
    What I see coming from the executive branch is akin to a signing statement.

    Think Roosevelt and the White Fleet.

    No funds (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:55:46 PM EST
    Signing statements do not create money.  

    Similar to what I told Woolsey on dKos: (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Noor on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:36:37 PM EST
    Beware passing anything that specifically allocates money for the Pentagon, even if you think its specifications are ironclad that the money can be used only for troop withdrawal.  Bush will redirect it with a signing statement.  

    Oh, I was more diplomatic than that.  But that was the gist.  And if there's a sneaky way to earmark money for getting the troops the hell out of Dodge, a la Wilberforce tactics, I'm all for that.  

    But the best way is simply to not include any language in any appropriations bill that deals with Iraq.  And it's so stunningly simple.  There's no heartburn or acid reflux involved in it.  Just don't include the language.  Don't specify the funds.  Starve the beast.



    You gotta fund the withdeawal (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:58:19 PM EST
    There is no avoiding THAT!

    Watch those fungers (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by TexDem on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 11:20:52 PM EST
    and don't forget to preview and edot.

    I agree... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by joliberal on Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 12:43:48 AM EST
    with much of what you said. However, I must point out that Iran is not an arab country.

    Thanks (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 12:46:23 AM EST
    for stopping by.