I think some congressional Democrats felt that they did enough after sending two bills to the President requiring firm (more or less firm anyway) deadlines for bringing home the troops. Sure, I follow their way of thinking. They wanted to show that they are anti-war, the blame for the continued conduct of the war lies with the President, etc. etc. The problem is, that was just not enough here.
Yes, I know what many of congressional Democrats who voted 'Yea' on HR 2206 (or its Senate incarnations) would say. I'm a student of history too. I remember when the Republican congressional majority refused to negotiate with Clinton on the budget and suffered a pounding in public opinion as a result. This is not the same thing. The public also is not buying the argument that not funding the war implies not supporting the troops. If they had, Democrats would not have won the last election. Democrats cannot be so afraid of using their power that they never stand up when something so critically important is to be decided.
People were expecting something with this vote. People were expecting that the votes they cast for Democrats in November would pay off with the Democrats taking a firm stand against the war and for bringing the troops home as quickly and safely as possible. It isn't just my wishful thinking that leads me to believe this.
AP's Jennifer Loven reported that "Polls show that leaving - not winning - is most Americans' main goal. In a poll released last Friday by CBS and the New York Times, 63 percent supported a troop withdrawal timetable of sometime next year. Another [poll] this month from USA Today and Gallup found 59 percent backing a withdrawal deadline that the U.S. should stick to no matter what happens in Iraq."
I write on a Progressive news site called OpEd News where a significant amount of the membership is, if not considerably to my left, certainly more anti-establishment than I am. Many people on the site are always ready to criticiZe the Democrats for any real or imagined slight. I'm not worried about the opinions of that group. I AM worried that the discontent and anger toward congressional Democrats and against the Democratic party as an institution as a result of the vote on HR 2206 has spread beyond the fringe groups into the general Democratic base and constituency who expected a serious stand against the long term continuation of the war. I am one of those people who expected that.
The damage goes beyond the Democratic Party. Most self described independants and No Party centrists are anti-war. A thoughtful set of policies could have made them regular Democratic voters. Is this vote on HR 2206 the way to promote the values of the party to these people? Will this bring them into the fold? Who can articulate the position of the Democratic Party on Iraq after this vote?
Those Democrats who did stand up for the right thing should be commended. No one should punish the guilty along with the innocent. Representatives like Pelosi, Kucinich, Obey and Waters along with Senators like Clinton, Obama and Feingold should be credited with making the proper stand. Former Senator John Edwards was also out there campaigning against this bill and deserves kudos for that. People should be asking congresspeople like Senators Reid and Biden exactly what it is they stand for and why they should be supported going forward. See below for a link to the list of who voted and how.
Congressional Democrats' road forward now if they want to bring a rapid end to the war is much more difficult and complicated. According to the War Powers act they can, by concurrant Resolution revoke war authorization and force the President to bring the troops home within 60 days. The Democratic Congressional Caucus should rally around getting this done with best possible speed.
Iraq is a mess, and a mistake that could have easily been avoided. The American people are understandably sick of having the troops die for a mistake that was not theirs. Polls show that regardless of circumstances, the American people want the troops to come home right away. Congressional Democrats need to work towards fulfilling the desires of the people.
Record of the Votes on the Iraq War Funding Resolution
House Vote 280-142
Pelosi - Nay
Kucinich - Nay
Obey - Nay
Waters - Nay
Senate Vote 80-14
Clinton - Nay
Obama - Nay
Feingold - Nay
Reid - Yea
Biden - Yea