In Advance

One of the things that really irritated me earlier this year was when Democrats were unable to force Bush’s hand on Iraq by using the emergency funding bill he had called for.  It wasn’t the Democratic failure that really got on my nerves, it was how quick the left were to jump down their throats for it.

When you deal in politics, you sometimes have to suck it up and face reality.  Sometimes you’re going to lose.  Sometimes things are just not skewed your way.  The measure that hit the floor in Congress earlier this year essentially required 67 votes to actually force Bush’s hand.  It really needed at least sixty to avoid the filibuster.

But Democrats simply weren’t going to get that kind of support from the Republicans, and rather than play a guessing game to see if Bush would actually let the troops continue to wage war in Iraq without funding, they did what I feel was the responsible thing and pass the bill, licking their wounds the whole way.

Now, following the questionable testimony of Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker, and the absolutely insulting speech given by the president yesterday, the Democrats find themselves again at a moment of truth.

Dodd, has put forth a proposal to again attempt to tie withdrawl motions to funding, and because this would be budgetary and not emergency funding it would not necessarily be subject to a filibuster, the requisite vote count would be fifty, but as Kevin Drum of the Political Animal points out, even that math is going to get tricky.

This sounds more plausible since budget reconciliations can pass with a simple majority and Bush can’t veto Pentagon funding forever. Unfortunately, there’s a problem: Democrats don’t have a simple majority. There are 49 Democrats in the Senate, and if you assume Bernie Sanders would join in, you’re up to 50.

That’s not enough. The only way to defund the war is for the Democratic leadership in the Senate to maintain absolute, 100% iron control over its own caucus and get at least one Republican to join them. But while there are a handful of Republicans who have been critical of the war, I can’t think of even a single one who’d come within a country mile of voting to defund it. Can you?

So what’s Plan B?

UPDATE: In comments, there seems to be some widespread misunderstanding about how budget bills work. Long story short, you can’t filibuster them, so 40 votes won’t stop anything.

And remember, we’re not talking about an emergency supplemental here. We’re talking about the FY 2008 budget for the entire Pentagon. Basically, Democrats have two choices: (a) muster the votes for a bill that funds the Pentagon but defunds the war and then dare Bush to veto it, or (b) refuse to pass anything, which effectively defunds the Pentagon completely without even forcing Bush to risk a veto. Option A is what we did earlier this year, and its success depends on whether we can keep our own caucus together and find a Republican senator or two to side with us for several votes in a row. Pretty unlikely. Option B is electoral suicide.

I’m all for trying Option A, but it makes Dems look weak and whiny to introduce bills and then have them fail, which is almost certainly what would happen. Is that what we want? And what comes next after that?

I think it’s pretty simple what comes after that.  Anyone who’s really been paying attention knows the answer, and if you don’t, you need look little further than Joe Biden who made it pretty clear.  As he said in one of the debates, we’ll end this war when we have a Democrat in the White House.  No sooner.

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