Friday, March 23

Congress at Its Worst

They Drank the Kool-Aid

When will the Democratic leadership ever learn that they can't "win" by not living up to the expectations of the voters that put them in office? This is a sad day. It is doubly vexing given that the conference committee will likely take out all of the "offending" limitations so that the president signs the bill.

For those few Democratic Congress members who voted this down because it didn't go far enough to end the war, thank you. They are: Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Michael McNulty, Michael Michaud, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Lee Woolsey

"If you want peace, stop funding the war. If you want peace, stand for the truth," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

From Marketwatch

Setting a potential showdown with President Bush over the conduct of the Iraq war, House Democrats prevailed Friday in passing a $124.6 billion spending package that would set tough benchmarks for the Iraqi government and withdrawal most troops from the country by next year.

The bill, which cleared largely along party lines in a 218-212 vote, would fund ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but would require the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by September 2008. The pullout would begin earlier if the Iraqi government fails to meet certain benchmarks.

"I am proud that we have finally done something," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. "We will fund the troops, and we will also demand that Iraq stand up for Iraq's future and stop leaning on America alone."

President Bush and congressional Republicans argue that the bill would "micromanage" the war effort, while signaling insurgents in Iraq and enemies around the world that the United States will remain only for the short run.

'I am proud that we have finally done something. We will fund the troops, and we will also demand that Iraq stand up for Iraq's future and stop leaning on America alone.'
— Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill

"I believe there's only one outcome if we support all the strings and the handcuffs and that outcome is failure ... what does it say to them that we are not willing to stand behind our troops?" said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The vote was a triumph for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and top Democrats, who spent the week scrambling to shore up support for the package. Conservative and moderate Democrats worried about looking weak on defense expressed concerns about the bill's timelines, while the party's liberal wing complained that the measure wouldn't immediately end the war.

The bill's backers said that the package offered the best opportunity to begin winding down the war, arguing that a more aggressive approach would be doomed to failure and would effectively give Bush a green light to continue his policies.

"Don't sell short a vote in favor of this bill as if it were a mere political accommodation," said Rep. David Price, D-N.C.

With almost all Republicans set to vote against the package, Democrats could withstand few defections in order to prevail.

Republican leaders decried what they said were a litany of pork-barrel projects, subsidies and other measures added to the bill in order to buy support from wavering lawmakers. In addition to military funding items, the package included previously House-passed language to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years.

The bill includes around $6 billion for hurricane relief, as well as millions in subsidies aimed at spinach growers and peanut farmers.

"What will our soldiers on the front lines think when they hear they've been sold for salmon fisheries and spinach growers?" asked Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

Democrats said Republicans were ignoring billions they added to the bill in order to ensure the troops have access to improved body armor and health care.

"If you vote against this, you're voting against the new armored vehicles which we need so badly," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. "If you vote against this bill, you'll be denying the troops better equipment and better protection."

The package will face a tough time in the Senate, where a number of Democrats have expressed reservations about a timetable. Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk

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