Yesterday, congressional leaders relented and removed a timeline for withdrawal from the Iraq war spending bill.
The mainstream media reports today that war critics “handed President Bush a victory.” But this victory for President Bush is a defeat for the American people. While the new supplemental bill will likely pass, members of Congress need to use this opportunity to go on the record once more about their opposition to Bush’s course in Iraq.
With his veto, President Bush rejected a supplemental bill that required a change in course. In a similar vein, Congress should follow Speaker Pelosi’s lead and vote to reject a bill that maintains stay the course. Here’s why:
1) Maintain unity for withdrawal: Pelosi and Reid showed tremendous leadership in creating a bipartisan majority for withdrawal. That unity is now threatened. Those members “who reluctantly have backed House leaders on the Iraq spending bill may defect due to the leadership’s decision to eliminate any timeline for withdrawal from the legislation.” Furthermore, to pass the supplemental, many members favoring withdrawal may ally with conservatives who overhelmingly favor an open-ended commitment in Iraq.
2) A toothless option: The new bill will likely “incorporate the benchmarks-based provision authored by Sen. John Warner (R-VA.),” but “Bush could waive these requirements if he submits a report to Congress on why he is doing so.” The final bill is also likely to be “stripped of other features that Mr. Bush had previously resisted, including readiness standards that would have prevented troops from being returned to Iraq within one year of serving there or without adequate training and equipment.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. Congressional leaders need to live up to their word and continue to fight for a change of course in Iraq. We’ve laid out four possible courses of action for them to take.
But in the meantime, anyone who supports accountability for President Bush’s Iraq policy must reject this blank check for war.
UPDATE: Tell Congress not to support a blank check. Take action here.