The Democratic motion to arbitrarily withdraw from Iraq has failed on a 48-50 vote. 60 votes were needed for passage. Republican-sponsored bills to support funding for the troops passed by wide margins.
The Democrats know they don’t have the votes to pass a bill that would set timetables on the war. They don’t even have the Constitutional authority to do so — the President as Commander in Chief has discretion in that area, not Congress. The only power Congress has is to cut off the funding, which the Democrats won’t do.
Even if such a bill passed, it would be vetoed and the Democrats have no chance of overriding a Presidential veto.
The Democrats have an opportunity to lead on Iraq. Unfortunately, they’d rather try to play to the anti-war base and advocate a deeply irresponsible policy position. The Democrats, despite their majority in the House and the Senate, can’t “stop” the war — what they can do is try to make as much political hay out of it as they can.
I’m not convinced that the Democratic leadership really wants to truly end the war on an arbitrary timetable. To do so would be politically disastrous and leave Iraq a ruin that would quickly spread chaos across the entire region. No smart politician wants to be caught holding that bag. Instead, it seems that the Democrats have every reason to want such resolutions to not succeed, as the war is a political albatross around the neck of Republican lawmakers. If the war really did “end” in 2008, that issue would lose much of its salience.
Speaker Pelosi is not a political novice — she knows she’s in an unwinnable position, but that the political fallout will still fall on the Administration rather than on the Democratic Congress. She has every reason and every ability to play the anti-war side for chumps, making promises to them that are impossible to keep. Granted, there is a danger that they may turn on the Democrats if they don’t produce some results, but as long as the Democrats keep toeing the anti-war party line, they needn’t worry about the political fallout.