Republicans poised to hang themselves on Iraq

The Republican leadership seems poised to take their party over the cliff. Sen. John Warner has successfully manipulated the Senate so that it will not make a strong statement against the escalation of troops in Iraq and will re-affirm its unwillingness to use the power of the purse to stop the president.  And, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, is threatening to filibuster the appropriations supplemental if the Democrats restricts the president too much or redirect the funds toward withdrawal.  In the House GOP members are being pressured by the leadership to back the war. The voters spoke on November 7, 2006 and polls since have shown opposition to the war has increased and solidified, with landslide opposition to sending more troops to Iraq.  Putting Bush’s failed and illegal war before the wishes of the American public risks the future of the Republican Party.

The Hagel-Biden Resolution opposing the so-called “surge” of troops passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with only one Republican vote, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.  Sen. Warner (R-VA) has been maneuvering to confuse the vote opposing the increase in troops by presenting a much weaker resolution and he has convinced Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the Chairman of Armed Services, to go along with him.  This weaker resolution is likely to get majority support and put the Senate at odds with the American voter.

While this manipulation of Senate rules might show Sen. Warner’s abilities as a player in the Senate, it shows a deaf political ear. Opposition to Bush’s plan to send more troops is widely opposed by more than two to one in opinion polls.  It is hard to find people who give the plan much hope for success.  And, many commentators recognize that the plan to embed U.S. troops with Iraqi troops in nine Baghdad districts is very likely to increase the number of U.S. soldiers killed.  Sen. Warner may win the battle in the Senate through his maneuver, but he may also find himself in the same position as his former colleague, George Allen who had been a high riding senator considering a run for president, but who is now a former senator.

And, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY), has threatened a filibuster if the appropriations supplemental is not to his (i.e., Bush’s)  liking. The leadership of McConnel and Warner is making a shrinking Republican minority more likely than a Republican majority in 2008.  There are 21 Republican senators facing re-election in 2008 they don’t want to be tied to supporting the increase in troops or in supporting more funding to stay the course in Iraq. 

In the House of Representatives GOP members are being pressured to back the war.  The Politico reports on February 1, 2007 that: “House and Senate Republicans with reservations about President Bush’s plan to boost U.S. troop strength in Iraq by 21,500 are complaining of harsh criticism from their GOP colleagues. This intra-party squabbling, in some cases, has seen Republicans accusing fellow Republicans of undercutting the American effort in Iraq, a charge previously reserved for Democrats.”  The article goes on to quote unidentified Republicans in the House saying “One GOP lawmaker, who declined to be named, said it is ‘starting to get really ugly’ among Republicans when they try to talk about Iraq and the wisdom of the new Bush policy. This lawmaker said when a Republican stands up who has doubts on Iraq, he’s immediately ‘beaten down’ by other Republicans who believe that any deviation from the White House position is intolerable.”  And, the topic is one not being discussed in the Republican Caucus.  “’We need a full-fledged debate on Iraq within the (House Republican) Conference and we haven’t had that so far,’ said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill. ‘This is the issue of our times, and so far, we haven’t talked about it,’” reports Politico.

Is a threat of an appropriations filibuster one that the Democrats should fear? How do Republicans filibuster an appropriations bill when they want to provide funding for the troops?  If the Democrats pass a bill that either redirects the funding in order to bring the troops home and build the peace in Iraq (through underwriting the rebuilding of Iraq by Iraqis and a stabilization force with an Arab or Muslim face) or if the Democrats pass an appropriation with a variety of restrictions included, what happens if the Republicans successfully filibuster?  The result is no appropriations bill.  In other words, filibuster de-funds the war because no appropriations supplemental will be passed. So, not only do the Democrats get to pass an appropriation that is more consistent with the views of the voters, but the Republicans get to be the ones who leave the troops and President Bush with no more funds.

So, what should the Democrats do? They should keep pushing for what the voters want – a rapid, responsible end to the Iraq war and occupation. Being on the side of the peace voter is where politicians facing election in 2008 want to be – unless they want to join Rick Santorum and George Allen as former elected officials.  And, if the Republican leadership keeps supporting Bush’s war they do so at the risk of becoming a shrinking minority. Let the Republicans walk into the trap of not reflecting the views of the voters.  Let their leadership mislead them as President Bush has done for six years.  The Republican Party can become as unpopular as Bush-Cheney and return to minority party status for a generation.

The only thing that can save the Republicans is the Democrats.  If they too are deaf to the views of the voters the Republicans may survive their mistaken pro-war leadership.

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