It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Last November, the American people voted for a Democratic Congress to end the illegal, insane and unjustifiable War in Iraq. But after finally passing legislation that gave us an actual deadline to get out of this quagmire, Congress blinked and capitulated on even that basic point. It’s easy to get cynical about what happened, and the fact that George Bush signed the War Funding Bill right before Memorial Day only adds insult to injury.
But Democrats in Congress had a simple problem – they didn’t have the votes to override the President’s veto. The Republicans refused to budge on this critical move, so Congress only had two realistic options: (1) vote to withdraw from Iraq immediately and, if that didn’t work, (2) refuse to fund the War without a firm deadline. But in the House, 59 Democrats could not even do the first option, and an embarrassing 86 failed to stand firm on the second. The Republicans – and these Democrats – effectively voted to give Bush a “blank check,” and they deserve all the anger coming their way. Those who did not back down, however, need our help now more than ever.
On May 10th, the House voted 171-255 to reject Congressman Jim McGovern’s bill to fund an immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq. George Bush had already vetoed the Iraq War Budget, so a stronger bill that would put more pressure on Republicans who face the voters in 2008 was the right thing to do. But it was viewed as a mere symbolic vote to get “buy-in” from the more progressive members to later support a capitulation. What nobody expected was that they would get even close to 171 votes.
Despite its failure, Barbara Lee sent out a press release lauding the strong support for the measure – calling it a “historic vote” and a “turning point” in the fight to bring our troops home. There was cause for optimism, as House leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel and Jim Clyburn all voted for it. Thirty Democrats who five years ago voted to authorize the war supported it, and a slight majority of the House Freshmen elected last November voted for it as well.
But far from being a “turning point,” the McGovern bill seems to have been the “last stand” for Congressional Democrats to stand up to this insane War. Seeing that there just weren’t the votes to break the logjam with Republicans, many did not have the guts to push forward and put their money with their mouth is – and refuse to fund this quagmire.
On May 24th, the House voted for a “blank check” that funds the war without any withdrawal date until September, with the futile hope that somehow “things will be different” a few months from now when the White House asks for more money.
Of course, this was an insanely stupid strategy. Getting the War funded for the next few months puts the pressure off Republicans who, until now, were put in the awkward position of siding with their President when the public wants to end the War.
And too many Democrats who until last week had stood up to the demagoguery of “support our troops” capitulated. Twenty-three House members who had voted for the McGovern bill supported the blank check. Some, like Tim Walz of Minnesota and Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, were people who I expected to know better.
In the Senate, it was even worse. On May 16th, only 29 Democrats voted to fund an immediate withdrawal. Some like Jim Webb of Virginia were elected last year to end the War, but couldn’t even support a symbolic bill that was meant to “ratchet up the pressure” against George Bush. When you consider that 23 Senators voted in 2002 against the Iraq War Resolution, an additional six votes isn’t much of an improvement.
Unlike in the House, where a majority of Democrats voted against the “blank check,” only 14 Senators voted the right way. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hemmed and hawed about whether to cut off funding, and finally did so as to not jeopardize their presidential campaigns. The 14 who voted “no” was a motley crew that consisted of principled progressives like Barbara Boxer, presidential candidates like Clinton and Obama, and (for some reason) three right-wing Republicans.
“Anyway you slice it, it stinks,” said Nita Chaudhary of MoveOn, in a mass e-mail sent out on May 25th. “The worst part is that too many Democrats—who we elected in November with a clear mandate to lead us out of the chaos in Iraq—crumbled when we needed them to fight.”
Meanwhile, 72% of Americans oppose the war and 63% want the U.S. to set a firm date to get us out of Iraq in 2008. While Congress effectively voted to fund the War until September without any conditions, only 15% of Americans say we should be funding the War no matter what. And George Bush’s approval ratings – especially on Iraq – are at an all-time low of 28%. It is a dark time for democracy when the will of the people is so completely ignored.
So what to do now? You clearly can’t blame all the Democrats for what went wrong. While too many of them capitulated, not all of them are responsible for the “blank check” that Congress passed. 171 House Democrats voted to immediately withdraw, and 140 of them, including Nancy Pelosi, voted against funding the War without conditions. They’re the ones who are actually siding with the American people.
But if Congress couldn’t “ratchet up the pressure” on the White House to end the War, it’s clear that the public needs to do so. As I reported on April 9th, now is the time to make a serious effort to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney – well before their terms expire in January 2009. At this point, I simply don’t see any other option.
The 86 House Democrats who voted for the “Blank Check” — If you must be angry at Democrats in Congress for selling out on Iraq, be angry at these people:
Bud Cramer of Alabama
Earl Pomeroy of Alabama
Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona (*freshman)
Harry Mitchell of Arizona (*freshman)
Marion Berry of Arkansas
Mike Ross of Arkansas
Vic Snyder of Arkansas
Joe Baca of California
Dennis Cardoza of California
Jim Costa of California
Susan Davis of California
John Salazar of Colorado
Mark Udall of Colorado
Allen Boyd of Florida
Tim Mahoney of Florida (*freshman)
Carrie Meek of Florida
John Barrow of Georgia
Sanford Bishop of Georgia
Jim Marshall of Georgia
David Scott of Georgia
Melissa Bean of Illinois
Rahm Emanuel of Illinois
Dan Lipinski of Illinois
Joe Donnelly of Indiana (*freshman)
Brad Ellsworth of Indiana (*freshman)
Baron Hill of Indiana (*freshman)
Peter Visclosky of Indiana
Leonard Boswell of Iowa
Nancy Boyda of Kansas (*freshman)
Dennis Moore of Kansas
Ben Chandler of Kentucky
Charlie Melancon of Louisiana
Steny Hoyer of Maryland
Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland
John Dingell of Michigan
Dale Kildee of Michigan
Sander Levin of Michigan
Bart Stupak of Michigan
Collin Peterson of Minnesota
Tim Walz of Minnesota (*freshman)
Gene Taylor of Mississippi
Bennie Thompson of Mississippi
Ike Skelton of Missouri
Shelley Berkley of Nevada
Rob Andrews of New Jersey
Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (*freshman)
G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina
Bobby Etheridge of North Carolina
Mike McIntyre of North Carolina
Heath Shuler of North Carolina (*freshman)
Zack Space of Ohio (*freshman)
Charlie Wilson of Ohio
Dan Boren of Oklahoma
Jason Altmire of Pennsyvlania (*freshman)
Chris Carney of Pennsylvania (*freshman)
Tim Holden of Pennsylvania
Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania
Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania
Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania
Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania (*freshman)
Jim Clyburn of South Carolina
John Spratt of South Carolina
Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota
Jim Cooper of Tennessee
Lincoln Davis of Tennessee
Bart Gordon of Tennessee
John Tanner of Tennessee
Henry Cuellar of Texas
Chet Edwards of Texas
Charlie Gonzalez of Texas
Gene Green of Texas
Ruben Hinojosa of Texas
Nick Lampson of Texas (*freshman)
Solomon Ortiz of Texas
Silvestre Reyes of Texas
Ciro Rodriguez of Texas (*freshman)
Jim Matheson of Utah
Rick Boucher of Virginia
Brian Baird of Washington
Norm Dicks of Washington
Rick Larsen of Washington
Alan Mollohan of West Virginia
Nick Rahall of West Virginia
Steve Kagen of Wisconsin (*freshman)
Ron Kind of Wisconsin
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