Paul  Weyrich

The Democrats must pay off their left-wing which helped them become a majority party for the first time in a dozen years. Leaders from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to Defense Subcommittee Chairman John P. Murtha (D-Pa) in the House and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) and Majority Whip Richard J. (Dick) Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate have come up with bills which would impose timetables on the President's request for another $100 billion to fight the war in Afghanistan and the Iraqi War. The bills, although somewhat different, would impose benchmarks which the troops and the Iraqi Government must achieve to avoid a more immediate withdrawal.

Of course, these drastic measures, which call for all the troops to be gone by the end of 2008, are not enough for the so-called "Peace Caucus," which wants the troops out this year.

The question is, is this good politics? Clearly the effort is to micro-manage the wars via the Congress.

This never has been successfully done. In Viet Nam and Angola Congress pulled the rug out from under the Nixon and Ford Administrations. In those cases it simply was a matter of denial of funds. The Administration had no choice.

In this case the Congress would be telling the Administration what it should and should not do. So we would remain in Iraq for the next year and a half but what could and could not be done is spelled out in this supplemental appropriations bill. First, can Speaker Pelosi get this through the House? There are a number of more moderate Democrats, elected in Republican districts, who don't want to vote on this. While the public has turned big-time against the Iraqi War, the public also believes that there is only one Commander-in-Chief. They think Republicans can hang this bill around their necks. The House has a solid margin of Democrats. Ms. Pelosi enjoys 30 more seats than her opposition. Most likely she can strong-arm enough of these more moderate Democrats that she would prevail. She likely will let the extreme left offer its amendment first. It will lose but it will allow these hot-heads to blow off steam. Then the measure would be considered by the Senate. There are enough differences between the House and Senate bills that Representative Murtha concedes House Democrats would need to negotiate with Senate Democrats.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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