Iraq War Funding Imminent, Timeline Absent

After months of ranting and raving, congressional Democrats have backed down and approved funding for the war in Iraq without a troop withdrawal provision.

2nd Infantry Soldier Iraq Photo Congress is likely to pass an additional $70 billion in new war funds, Democrats tell CNN. Democratic lawmakers and staffers privately say they’re closing in on a broad budget deal that would give President Bush as much as $70 billion in new war funding.

The deal would lack a key provision Democrats had attached to previous funding bills calling for most U.S. troops to come home from Iraq by the end of 2008, which would be a significant legislative victory for Bush.

Democrats admit such a move would be highly controversial within their own party. Coming just weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, vowed the White House would not get another dollar in war money this year, it would further antagonize the liberal base of the party, which has become frustrated with the congressional leadership’s failure to push back on Bush’s Iraq policy.

“The base will not be happy,” said one senior Democratic aide, who requested anonymity to candidly discuss budget negotiations that have not been completed.

The Democratic aide acknowledged the president is likely to get new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before Congress adjourns for the year. “Yes, in the end, that’s where we will be,” the aide said.

The bizarre thing is that everybody knew that months ago. Of course the president was going to “win” on this issue. No Congress is going to pull funds from an army currently in harm’s way. That Pelosi and company allowed this to be framed as a partisan issue was amazingly incompetent.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    Perhaps Boehner was being too kind when he said the democrats were as bad at being in charge of the house as the republicans.

    The most that would have happened was the funding would occur in January. Now they are trying to claim victory because they are going to give part of the funds now and part next year.

    What is the most fun is getting a liberal to show that a majority of congress wants to bring the US troops back from Iraq soon on any terms other than US victory. HR 2237 was 171 for and 255 against a 9 month deadline. The funding bills without the withdrawal deadline are continuing. The democrats may be in the majority in both chambers, but the sanity that we are better off continuing in Iraq than any proposed alternative still reigns in the majority of congress.

  2. Tlaloc says:

    The bizarre thing is that everybody knew that months ago. Of course the president was going to “win” on this issue. No Congress is going to pull funds from an army currently in harm’s way. That Pelosi and company allowed this to be framed as a partisan issue was amazingly incompetent.

    I disagree with the contention that the dems couldn’t have won this. They could have sent a funding bill to the president that had a timeline *every* time. Hold a press conference every time saying “we have agreed to give the president the funds he wants so long as he agrees to some reasonable amount of oversite by congress.” Then when he vetoes you hold another press conference and ask why the president is refusing to fund the troops, and you send him exactly the same funding bill again.

    And again. And again.

    The dems would have won.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    Interesting.

    Look at this:
    Redstate

    Redstate editor Bluey is urging Bush to veto the budget that supposedly the Dems caved on. Apparently it is a little over his supposed line in the sand budget cap.

    This makes for an interesting opportunity. The meme has already gone out that the dems caved and gave bush everything he wanted. If Bush vetos the dems are in a perfect place to strike back saying “Bush is completely unreasonable, no matter how much we try to work with him he demands more. No more, Mr. President. No more funding without adequate congressional oversite.”

    If I had a higher personal opinion of Reid/Pelosi’s competence I would say it might have even been a cagey manuever. under the circumstances I suspect it is merely a lucky break (and one they are likely to miss, they are democrats after all).

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    Tlaloc,

    The thing you are missing is, outside of rhetoric and a chance to bash Bush, show any objective evidence that a majority of congress wants the US to leave Iraq soon under anything but US victory.

    Look at one of the most straight forward votes on the subject (no budget issues around it). In HR 2237 171 voted for the US leaving Iraq in 9 months, 255 voted against it.

    Once you realize that a majority of congress (no matter what party affiliation they put behind their name) do not support a US withdrawal from Iraq soon under anything but US victory, then the rest is easily explained by the democrats placating people like you and the normal political point scoring (though the democrats have been very poor at the point scoring).

    If you think it is just a failure of tactics or backbone you are missing a fundamental piece of reality.

  5. Grewgills says:

    YAJ,
    Can you define US victory?

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Once you realize that a majority of congress (no matter what party affiliation they put behind their name) do not support a US withdrawal from Iraq soon under anything but US victory, then the rest is easily explained by the democrats placating people like you and the normal political point scoring (though the democrats have been very poor at the point scoring).

    I don’t think that’s the case. It seems more likely to me that the dems by and large *do* want to end the war but they are simply terrified of being labeled cowards by the right. Since this has been a common tactic by the right it is easy to see why they think that would happen. Hell, we aren’t anywhere close to out of Iraq yet and many on the right are already touting the “stabbed in the back” theme (I have to give them bonus points for getting in touch with their inner fascist).

    At the same time I’m sure there are some dems who don;t want the war to end. The more centrist DLC types who are pretty much just as wed to the “military industrial complex” as the right is, for one. Also those who see it as a handy political club to attack the GOP with come Nov.

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    Tlaloc,

    Look at the objective roll call vote total for HR 2237. That was a straight up or down vote for withdrawal. It got 171 votes for withdrawal. You can project all you want about the democrats being scared, buffaloed or whatever. But when they had a chance at a straight up or down vote, 255 voted against withdrawal. If you want to subsist on empty rhetoric, that is your choice. That doesn’t mean it is reality.

    Grewgills,
    Excellent question. And I think there are levels of victory. The highest level is that Iraq is seen in the Arab world as an example of a functioning democracy with good economic opportunity and an honest government which provides an attractive alternative to Al Qaeda. At a minimum, a country that was not supporting terrorism, was no worse than other like countries in the region in terms of its governance, Al Qaeda is seen as defeated in a fight it stated was important and the US seen as a country that will take any hits against it but keep moving forward (aka dispelling the paper tiger image). There are a lot of points in between those two extremes.

    If the latest NIE is to be believed, then something happened in 2003 that convinced Iran that it was in their interest to stop developing a nuclear bomb. The minimal victory conditions would be consistent with keeping Iran convinced that it was in their interest to continue to stop development. Of course, you need to take the NIE with a large grain of salt, the NIE itself says that while Iran stopped development of the nuclear warhead, they continued with the harder/more critical part of developing the weapons grade material for a nuke.

    If you ask me where we are going to end up, I don’t know. If you asked me a year ago, I would have given odds on whether we could have eked out a minimal win. Now, I have a little more confidence. Hopefully with the increase in security in Iraq, we can see some improvements in the political front. Given the recent revenue numbers for the Iraq government, month to date US losses and the other trends we are seeing, the signs are hopeful for something more than the minimal victory.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    Look at the objective roll call vote total for HR 2237. That was a straight up or down vote for withdrawal.

    Which is a move of questionable constitutionality.

    You can project all you want about the democrats being scared, buffaloed or whatever. But when they had a chance at a straight up or down vote, 255 voted against withdrawal. If you want to subsist on empty rhetoric, that is your choice. That doesn’t mean it is reality.

    *shrug*
    I gave you my estimation. Yours is different. Not much point trying to convince each other under the circumstances.

    Given the recent revenue numbers for the Iraq government, month to date US losses and the other trends we are seeing, the signs are hopeful for something more than the minimal victory.

    Why don’t we come back to this topic, say next summer? See the surge is basically over. It has failed in the meantime to do anything more than tamp the violence down to the 2005 levels. Ah the golden summer of 2005 in Baghdad, when everything was swell! Oh, wait…

    As I was saying, the surge managed to slow the rate of violence. It failed to produce anything resembling political movement, and it cannot be sustained past April 2008 according to the Pentagon.

    Guess what happens when we draw down troops? Violence goes back up, especially if we get another “Golden Mosque” style attack. Just in time for the big election run up, too.

  9. Grewgills says:

    The highest level is that Iraq is seen in the Arab world as an example of a functioning democracy with good economic opportunity and an honest government which provides an attractive alternative to Al Qaeda.

    That is more or less the original stated goal. IMO it is/was a pipe dream.

    At a minimum, a country that was not supporting terrorism, was no worse than other like countries in the region in terms of its governance…

    Remove the italicized bit or add provable and institutional as modifiers and that is our likely best outcome. Then again we had that before we started.

    …Al Qaeda is seen as defeated in a fight it stated was important and the US seen as a country that will take any hits against it but keep moving forward (aka dispelling the paper tiger image).

    Here I guess it depends on who is doing the seeing. You can already say mission accomplished on this point for much of the Republican base. Beyond that we shall see. I do hope something good comes out of this, but I think in the final accounting it will have done more harm than good.
    Al Quaeda has taken a beating in some areas and has moved its focus more to Afghanistan. Time will tell if that is temporary. We will also have to wait and see what the long term effects of arming and financing warlords to do our fighting for us are in Iraq. That strategy has been problematic in Afghanistan, but we will see. Hopefully it works out better in Iraq.

    they continued with the harder/more critical part of developing the weapons grade material for a nuke

    That is not exactly what it said. They are continuing enrichment to the point that materials can be used for a nuclear power program. It must be refined much more for weapons use. One can of course interpret that as refining stocks part way, but doing that is well within their treaty rights. One can, of course, also argue that the only purpose of Iran’s civilian nuclear program is to provide cover for a military program and/or allowing a legally defensible start to such a program. Still their civilian program is legal even if it is meant as cover for something more nefarious. The civilian program and secrecy surrounding it is effective as a means of intimidation without the very high added expense of actually developing a weapon. This is also a likely fall back position while international scrutiny makes actual weapons development impractical.

    Hopefully with the increase in security in Iraq, we can see some improvements in the political front.

    I hope right along with you, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  10. yetanotherjohn says:

    Tlaloc,

    I agree that we have different perceptions. The point I am trying to make is look at objective facts, not just the rhetoric. You can shrug off HR 2237, but it is an objective fact. Do you really think it went down 171 to 255 in defeat because of “questionable constitutionality”? Look at the repeated votes for funding without time line conditions.

    BTW, do you happen to know the current casualty rate for US service men in December? Here is a hint, many more Americans died in the recent ice storm (curse you global warming).

    Grewgills,
    Time will tell. Let me ask you a counter question. What do you think the Mideast would look like if we withdrew now?

    As far as Afghanistan goes, do you catch the recent battle in Musa Qala? I agree that this is a multi-front war. But the only way we can be defeated in this war is by failure of will on the home front.