That’s what I think has happened, anyway. I’m in Washington today, mostly doing serious business. But I’ve also tried to pick up on the latest scuttlebutt. It appears that the Republican leadership, in particular Mitch McConnell, has successfully outmaneuvered the Democrats on the issue of the anti-surge resolutions which the Dems had hoped to use to further delegitimize the administration’s efforts in Iraq.
As I reconstruct the story, the first stage of the Dems’ retreat was when the party’s leadership decided to push the Warner/Levin resolution rather than the more radical Biden/Hagel resolution that cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Democrats shifted to Warner/Levin in hopes of landing more Republican votes. But the amended version of Warner/Levin includes language opposing a funding cutoff in paragraph 4:
(4) the Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field, as such an action with respect to funding would undermine their safety or harm their effectiveness in pursuing their assigned missions;
So Warner/Levin, as amended, would probably have split the Democrats, as the more radical elements (Feingold, et al.) likely would not have voted for it.
The Democrats’ problems were compounded when the Republicans held firm (with only two exceptions) behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that full debate be allowed, not just on the Warner/Levin resolution, but also on New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg’s resolution, a straightforward rejection of funding cuts for the war effort. Harry Reid knew that the Gregg resolution would get more votes than Warner/Levin, and decided to pull the plug on his effort to embarrass the administration, at least for now. The Senate has moved on to other business.
This narrative is consistent with Robert Novak’s analysis:
As little as Republicans wanted to vote on the Warner resolution, Democrats were even more scared of voting on Gregg’s amendment — it would have defeated the Democrats’ entire purpose for voting on Iraq. Moreover, Warner’s resolution would not get the 60 votes needed to pass, and Gregg’s would have won. This would embarrass and divide the Democratic majority. More proof: When Gregg asked Reid on the floor whether Reid would vote for a resolution against cutting funding, Reid stammered, said he could not answer, and changed the subject.
Democrats preferred no vote to a vote that included Gregg’s resolution, and thus they were forced to give up altogether on the idea of a resolution. After losing a round, their next move is to consider a resolution in the House in hopes of increasing pressure for the Senate to act later.
So the Republicans have won for now, much to the relief of several Republican Senators who much prefer not to have to vote on any of the Iraq resolutions.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports, however, that some Republican Senators are intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
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