February 23, 2007

Democrats Try Binding Resolutions

Democrats have not given up on attempting to micromanage the war in Iraq despite their loss in the Senate last Saturday. A new effort has begun to rewrite the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, with Democrats claiming that the existing AUMF is obsolete -- rather than admit that they want to end our deployment altogether:

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.

In both chambers, Democratic lawmakers are eager to take up binding legislation that would impose clear limits on U.S. involvement in Iraq after nearly four years of war. But Democrats remain divided over how to proceed. Some want to avoid the funding debate altogether, fearing it would invite Republican charges that the party is not supporting the troops. Others take a more aggressive view, believing the most effective way to confront President Bush's war policy is through a $100 billion war-spending bill that the president ultimately must sign to keep the war effort on track.

The blowback from Democratic moderates came after John Murtha made the mistake of being honest about his intentions on an anti-war website. He wrote that the only purpose of his so-called readiness requirements was to cripple the President's ability to deploy troops into and around Iraq, which started making the rounds through the blogosphere and into the mainstream media last week. Murtha's "slow bleed" plan would have forced the Pentagon to either undersupport the troops in the field, including sending fresh replacements for exhauted units, or to surrender altogether -- two options that infuriated Democrats already facing tough questions back home about the influence of the hard Left on their party.

Now the Senate wants to introduce a replacement for the existing AUMF that would limit the use of troops in a different way, but with similar results. It forces an end to the deployment of combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the date proposed by the Iraq Study Group, and afterwards restricts American operations in Iraq to training, border security, and counterterrorism. It would require the White House to certify that any offensive operation in Iraq directly targeted al-Qaeda rather than sectarian Iraqi militias or insurgencies -- and would set up a potential impeachment scenario if the President failed to make the case before any operation began.

This is a textbook case of micromanaging a war. Instead of taking the one option open to Congress -- defunding the war effort -- they have decided to override the Constitution by setting themselves above the President in the chain of command. They understand that a defunding effort would unmask them as defeatists and retreatists while American troops face the terrorists, especially in Anbar. Even Joe Biden understands that much.

Nor are they opting for an honest method of floating this unconstitutional nonsense. The Democrats plan to attach the reworked AUMF as an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill rather than allow an up-or-down vote on it in the Senate. They want to dare the Republicans to filibuster the spending bill or Bush to veto it if it passes with the new AUMF intact. They're playing games with the funds necessary to secure the nation during a time of war -- and they expect to be taken seriously on how to conduct one?

In the House, the Democrats plan to offer a different plan after the collapse of the Murtha strategy, but it will be just as transparently partisan. They will propose a more straightforward funding bill for the war, but will include a waiver on any deployment readiness restrictions by allowing the Secretary of Defense or the President to certify that unprepared troops will be deployed into battle. It's a silly and blatantly partisan mechanism, but that matches the Democratic Congress perfectly.


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