One constant theme
throughout Saturday’s protest in Washington was this notion that Democrats are
somehow just as culpable as Republicans when it comes to stopping the Iraq
occupation, because they somehow hold "the power of the purse" and
apparently haven’t used it sufficiently. According to these folks — and there
seemed to be a lot of them — this is due to the mere fact that they now hold a
slim majority in the House and Senate. As this "conventional wisdom"
goes , because they are now the majority party, Democrats can just cut off all
funding, and thus force the president to simply stomp his feet, scream "aw
shucks!" and bring the troops home.
Standing next to this
too-large contingent of lefties is a group who is slightly more realistic, and
suggests that Democrats just need to keep on sending bills to Bush and make him
keep vetoing them. Their reasoning says that doing such a think would "show"
everyone… um… what, exactly? That he’s obstinately sticking by the war,
regardless of what anyone thinks? Yeah! That’ll show…. Um… whom, exactly? Is
there anyone in the country who doesn’t know this already? Constantly sending
the president bills to veto over and over is just childish, and wastes time
that could be spent on actually doing their jobs.
appropriations process really isn’t all that simple, anyway. It’s not a matter
of stomping your feet and saying "no more money, Mr. President." It’s
far more complex than that, and to expect it in the current environment is just plain silly and
simplistic. Democrats hold a bare majority in the House, and several bills have
gotten through there already. The Senate is another story, however. Under the
circumstances, Democrats are effectively in the minority in the Senate, at
least when it comes to Iraq. On Iraq, Democrats have exactly 50 votes in the
Senate, and only since Tim Johnson returned from brain surgery; before that,
they had 49. Meanwhile, the Republicans have 49 plus Lieberman, and Darth
Cheney holds the tie breaker. The Democrats can’t just vote away the war; they
really do not have the votes. Republicans may hate this war, and there may be a
point in the future in which Republican Senators hate the war enough to start
voting against it, but to expect them to vote to cut off funding, well… it’s
just not realistic.
Even if Congress was
able to cut off funding as of right now, there is no guarantee that such an
action would have the desired effect, anyway. Approximately $500 billion has
already been appropriated for Iraq so
far, and that amount has been appropriated outside of the Defense budget, where
there are tens of billions in discretionary dollars every year. It is unlikely
that every dollar appropriated previously has been spent; there is probably a
significant reserve built up, to keep the contractors happy for at least a year
or two more. Therefore, even if the funding were to magically end right now,
the war wouldn’t necessarily end due to a lack of funding.
That said, imagine
that the funding were suddenly cut off. Such a circumstance could potentially
create a political minefield for Democrats, politically speaking. Any increase in violence could be turned
against Democrats in Congress, for cutting off funding. This administration has
been handed more than a half trillion
dollars for this war, but hasn’t been able to find the 20 billion or so it
would take to provide body armor for all of the troops now; a reduction in
funding would assure that they still don’t get what they need. Halliburton,
Bechtel and ExxonMobil will continue to make money from this war; make no
mistake about that. Refusing to fund the troops isn’t just a jingoistic Fox
Noise Talking Point™, folks; the net effect of cutting off funding could be
That is what the
Democrats can’t do. There is a lot, however, that they can do, although they
need our help.
Congressional Democrats are doing a lot.
They make speeches on the House and Senate floors, and they go onto talk shows
and discuss the war. They tell everyone who will listen to them that this
occupation is illegal and immoral and that it needs to stop. And they are doing
that. Congressional Democrats have been all over the news this year, trying to
drum up support for their bids to end the war.
If this war is going
to end, we have to get more Republicans against the war, to the point that even
THEY want it to end. That takes a hell of a lot more than a series of polls
saying the American people don’t like it. There has to be a groundswell that is
so overwhelming that Congressional Republicans can’t ignore it. That will take
letter writing campaigns unlike any seen in years. I am not talking about
e-mail, folks; I’m talking about letters. No petitions, no mass mailings in
which you simply have to sign your name to a form letter. I’m talking about
writing letters to Congress and your local newspaper, in which you express your
disgust with this occupation, and its effects in the United States and the
We have to create a
groundswell that makes the average person look up from their busy lives and say
"You know, you’re right! Iraq is a quagmire and a debacle!" to the
point that they, too, write their Congresspersons and make their feelings known,
The fact of the matter
is, we don’t have the votes to simply cut off war funding. That means, we have
to create the votes. We have to make sure that 18-20 Republican Senators feel
that they have no choice but to vote to end this thing. That’s our mission,
folks. If we can’t get enough votes to override a veto, then there is nothing
Democrats can do right now. Take this lesson into 2008, though, and make sure
Democrats have enough votes next time. Right now, we have enough votes to stop the government hemorrhaging, and little more. We need 60 votes in the Senate; more if a Republican like Bush is in the White House. 49-50 just won’t cut it right now.
bills that are destined to die is not progress. Expecting miracles isn’t
progress. Progress takes a lot of work, and it requires a lot of passion. Not
fake passion, but real passion.