Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So who is going to blink first?


As they seek to reconcile two versions of the spending resolution to fund Bush’s not-so-excellent adventure, Senate Democrats are looking at making timelines and benchmarks “advisory” rather than binding.

They are also considering giving Bush the authority to waive troop readiness standards.

Sounds to me like they are folding like a bunch of cheap suits. Their compromise will cost them dearly with the staunchly anti-war members of the party, but will likely pick up some Republican support.

Bush claims he will veto any legislation that isn’t 100% to his liking, and insists he will never compromise. Timelines, to his way of – ahem – thinking – ahem – are a “date to surrender” you see. (Never mind that American forces are viewed as occupiers, and are caught in the crossfire.)

The haggling between congressional Democrats came as their leaders met at the White House with Bush to try to hash out their dispute. Both sides termed it a polite, productive meeting in which they restated their positions but emerged without an agreement. Democrats promised to send Bush their bill next week.

"We believe he must search his soul, his conscience, and decide what is best for the American people," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on the White House driveway. "I believe signing the bill is that."

White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said later that Bush has not changed his mind. But she expressed optimism that after a veto, Democrats would pass legislation without conditions to provide $100 billion to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It was clear that ultimately there will be a bill that can fund the troops, that the troops will get the funds they need," Perino said.

It is, of course, brinksmanship, pure and simple. This is all positioning for the post veto phase of the process. One Democrat was reported to have said that Congress might pass a 60-day spending bill, without conditions and continue the debate on the supplemental. . Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) said Democrats are treating June 1 as the final deadline for passage of a war-funding bill that would not be vetoed.

Bush offered platitudes, assuring the congressional leaders that he believes in benchmarks and has been pressing Iraqi leaders to meet them, he just doesn’t want them to be binding or anything he has to live up to. Democrats want to make the benchmarks binding.

Democrats were quick to cite Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East yesterday that demands for withdrawal have been constructive. "The strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable probably has had a positive impact . . . in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment," Gates said.

When the House convenes tomorrow, Speaker Pelosi will have quite a task on her hands keeping the Democratic caucus together.


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