Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on a non-binding resolution which combines elements of ones proposed by Carl Levin and Chuch Hagel and another proposed by John Warner, respectively. The revised resolution would express the Senate's opposition to the troop increase but would vow to protect funding for the troops. The resolution does not include the Democratic language saying the Bush plan is against the national interest, but it also drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops.
It is unclear whether even this water-downed proposal will garner enough support to pass, since a majority of Republicans still oppose even the softened language and Democrats Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd criticized the resolution as weak and meaningless, while others, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were undecided. All have argued for binding resolutions.
It is clear that Democrats in the Senate have opted to try and get the largest possible vote, but what is really the point? Such a resolution will neither change war policy, nor make any sort of powerful statement. Markos Moulitsas argues this well over at DailyKos:
"Reid should introduce binding legislation. Let the Republicans vote against it. It'll give us grist to use in the 2008 elections. The American people didn't elect a Democratic Congress to waste time passing useless, non-binding resolutions that Bush can easily (and gleefully) ignore.
A successful non-binding resolution will be no more useful in ending this disastrous war than a failed binding one. So let's make a real statement on the war, not empty platitudes and rhetoric."
Thankfully, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has hinted she will push binding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. "I believe that you'll see initiatives on the floor to this effect: that we have this year in which we should be able to drastically reduce the number of troops," she said in an interview broadcast on National Public Radio yesterday.
According to the Washington Post, some early parameters of the legislation may already be coming together. Legislative language, to be attached to a forthcoming "supplemental" war spending bill, would stipulate that only troops deemed fully trained and ready could be deployed to Iraq, and that National Guard and reserve troops could be deployed only for about a year. Such language would initially restrict Bush's ability to fully man his planned troop increase and over time would force troops to come home.
"We need to finish these hearings and put together our recommendations, so it is a little premature to say how we're going to do this," Rep. James Moran, a Democratic member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said. "But when the supplemental comes out, people are going to find the speaker has spoken consistently. I think the American people are going to feel they got exactly what they wanted when they voted in a new Congress. You're going to see some dramatic initiatives."
One would hope so. The House shouldn't wait for Senate leadership on this. It's apparent that with 49 Republican Senators, Joe Lieberman, and hesistant leadership, nothing substantial is going to happen unless it happens in the House first. In the meantime, Bush will go ahead with his "surge" in clear defiance of the will of most of the rest of the nation. Though this situation shows why it is more-than-ever important we work towards electing a Democratic president and increasing Democratic majorities in Congress in 2008, that is a long way away and we must keep pressure on those currently in Congress to step-up efforts to combat the President's war policy. Non-binding resolutions are not enough. We need action. And we need it now.
So someone, please take the lead.