Saturday, 26 May 2007

Too much compromise?

When I said the Democrats should work on a subject other than Iraq, in addition to Iraq, which they had less power on than what is ideal, I didn't mean they should compromise with the White House on nearly every issue. That also looks bad to the voters who are fed up with the Iraq policy, and see the Dems as caving into the White House's ever wish just as the Republicans did when they were in power. If only they could have gotten the Bush administration to compromise more, thus making it less powerful than it thinks it is when it comes to managing foreign policy. This can never be emphasized enough: the executive needs to be kept in check.

Positives: the bill required some compromise by the Republicans and the Bush administration too, namely on raising hte minimum wage (finally) from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour and setting real benchmarks for Baghdad security progress rather than the imaginary ones Bush preaches. Just as the Democrats finally fulfill some of their election promises, they backtrack, as it is, on the large issue of Iraq. However, it's not like they had many other options, and most other political wrangling would waste more time.

The emergency war funding bill was signed 109 days after President George Bush presented it to Congress. It passed 80 to 14 in the Senate, 280 to 142 in the House, and includes $120 billion in funding. Bush had promised a prompt veto of any bill containing measures for troop withdrawal, and the Dems didn't (and don't) have a large enough majority to override him.

[Bush] said the 18 benchmarks should signal to the Iraq government that "it needs to show real progress in return for America's continued support and sacrifice." But he added, "We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months" ahead.

The focus now shifts to September, when the new funding runs out, and when U.S. commanders say they will be able to assess the results of an ongoing troop buildup.
The votes yesterday marked a rare moment of bipartisanship in an otherwise contentious and emotional debate. The first Iraq spending bill, which included a withdrawal timetable and was vetoed by Bush on May 1, split lawmakers more or less along party lines.
Republican support was nearly unanimous in both chambers. In the Senate, 37 Democrats supported the bill, while 10 opposed it.

This looks for the most part more like a GOP bill than a Democratic one. Nonetheless, I'm sure the Republicans were eager to get off of the Iraq issue, which they have a particular weakness for, and not appear to oppose things like raising the minimum wage, which they had opposed in the past against the popular support in raising it.

Republicans are also getting restless in the search for progress in Iraq — the progress the Bush administration keeps saying is right around the corner. Hopefully these benchmarks will help pressure the Bush administration as much as it pressures the Iraqi government. However, might the Iraq government ignore the benchmarks just to get US troops out? I'm sure the White House won't make it that easy.
In the House, a majority of Democrats rejected the Iraq funding. A separate domestic spending measure that was packed with lawmaker priorities, including a federal minimum wage increase, passed easily by a 348 to 73 vote. In the Senate, the two bills were merged into one package.

"We have moved the ball forward. Far enough? No," said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), one of the 86 House Democrats who supported the Iraq bill.

Pelosi was among the 140 House Democrats to oppose it. "This is a token," she said moments before the vote. "This is a small step forward. Instead, we should have a giant step forward."
Pelosi's vote does not surprise me. I wonder, however, if she still needs to face the reality of the current state of US politics; her rhetoric is still to hopeful and ambitious, not that it shouldn't be considering the position she's in. She needs to divert the anti-war Democrats' attention away from the compromise and more towards the fact that the Dems are different and intend to make real change, even on Iraq, whether that's true, or practical, or not is of issue.
In the Senate, the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), were among the 14 opponents. "This vote is a choice between validating the same failed policy in Iraq that has cost us so many lives and demanding a new one. And I am demanding a new one," Obama said.

It is interesting that Clinton voted a bit more liberally than I expected on this bill. So far she has been unapologetic on the Iraq issue, even more so than many Republican candidates for 2008.
"We are moving backward," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a war opponent. "Instead of forcing the president to safely redeploy our troops, instead of coming up with a strategy providing assistance to a post-redeployment Iraq, and instead of a renewed focus on the global fight against al-Qaeda, we are faced with a spending bill that kicks the can down the road and buys the administration time."

The final bill includes $17 billion in unrelated domestic spending, a slight reduction from the $21 billion that Congress added to the first package. The minimum-wage increase would bump the hourly rate to $7.25 an hour from the current rate of $5.15 over the next two years. The wage increase was one of the Democrats' 2006 election promises, and was attached to the war bill to guarantee that it would reach Bush's desk.

The bulk of the funding -- around $100 billion -- would continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The nonmilitary spending includes $6.4 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery efforts and $3 billion in emergency aid to farmers, for relief from drought and other natural disasters. An additional $1 billion would pay for port and mass-transit security upgrades. Children's health-care funding would increase by $650 million.

It is not uncommon for bills one topic to have amendments on totally different topics. That is one major problem with the American legislative system, in addition to the issue of streamlining, or lack thereof.
Other domestic beneficiaries include state HIV grant programs, mine safety research, youth violence prevention activities, and pandemic flu protection. About $3 billion would fund the conversion of U.S. military bases that are scheduled to close.

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