What AP's Anne Flaherty has been calling "an epic war-powers struggle and Congress' boldest challenge yet to the administration's policy" came to a farcical conclusion Friday as Democrats surrendered the antiwar position.  --  The vote, whose only beneficiaries would appear to be the corporations making billions from the disastrous war and the American and Iraqi politicians who service them, was, appallingly, not even close:  280-142 in the House and a 80-14 in the Senate.  --  Most news accounts left out the embarrassing tallies, thanks to which the U.S. and Iraq will dig themselves deeper into what is becoming a quagmire of world-historical proportions.  --  The only representative of Pierce County voters to oppose the depraved measure was Adam Smith (D-WA 9th).  --  Norm Dicks (D-WA 6th) and Dave Reichert (R-WA 8th), as well as both of Washington's senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, voted in favor.  --  The fourteen senators voting no were Boxer (D-CA), Burr (R-NC), Clinton (D-NY), Coburn (R-OK), Dodd (D-CT), Enzi (R-WY), Feingold (D-WI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Obama (D-IL), Sanders (I-VT), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).  --  "Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months," the Washington Post reported.[1]  --  "The spending package, expected to total $120 billion when the final version is released [Friday], would require Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority," Shailagh Murray wrote.  --  "Instead of sticking with troop-withdrawal dates, Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government, with periodic reports from Bush on its progress, starting in late July."  --  AP's David Espo, in an analysis, reported Friday than no one was happy:  "We feel like we've moved an iceberg an inch," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL 20th), and Republican militarists like John Boehner (R-OH 8th) griped that "We've got a whole host of other issues that don't deserve to be put on the backs of our men and women in the military."[2]  --  Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he felt "[a]nger that we do not have the power to make the will of the people of America the law of our land."  --  Yet Durbin voted for the bill.  --  Espo conveyed some putrid details about 48 hours of haggling over domestic spending items that were employed to win support.  --  President Bush signed the bill into law at Camp David Friday afternoon, AP reported.[3]  --  Anne Flaherty predicted further battles ahead:  "In the months ahead, lawmakers will vote repeatedly on whether U.S. troops should stay and whether Bush has the authority to continue the war. . . . The most critical votes on the war are expected to be cast in September, when the House and Senate debate war funding for 2008.  The September votes probably will come after Iraq war commander Gen. David Petraeus tells Congress whether Bush's troop buildup plan is working.  Also due by September is an independent assessment of progress made by the Iraqi government."  --  This is absurd:  How can the Iraqi government make an "independent assessment"?  --  The U.S. media is not reporting the fact that such an independent assessment has already been made by Chatham House, as UFPPC observed last week.  --  It's entitled "Accepting Realities in Iraq," which is something of which the U.S. government seems to be incapable.  --  The Chatham House report concludes that "The surge is not curbing the high level of violence, and improvements in security cannot happen in a matter of months." ...


1.

Politics

In Congress

DEMOCRATS RELENT ON PULLOUT TIMETABLE
By Shailagh Murray

Washington Post
May 25, 2007
Page A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/22/AR2007052201329.html

Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.

Bush, who has already vetoed one spending bill with a troop timeline, had threatened to do the same with the next version if it came with such a condition. Democratic leaders had moved ahead anyway, under heavy pressure from liberals who believe that the party won control of Congress in November on the strength of antiwar sentiment. But in the end, Democrats said they did not have enough votes to override a presidential veto and could not delay troop funding.

The spending package, expected to total $120 billion when the final version is released today, would require Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority. Democrats were working to secure two other priorities that the president had previously resisted: an increase in the minimum wage and funding for domestic programs, including veterans' benefits, Hurricane Katrina relief and agricultural aid.

Instead of sticking with troop-withdrawal dates, Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government, with periodic reports from Bush on its progress, starting in late July. If the Iraqis fall short, they could forfeit U.S. reconstruction aid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was so disappointed with the outcome that she said she might vote against the Iraq portion of the package, which will be split into two parts when it comes before the House. "I'm not likely to vote for something that doesn't have a timetable," she said.

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) worked through yesterday evening to hammer out a final agreement, consulting regularly with GOP leaders and the White House. The package is expected to come before the House and the Senate tomorrow and to be sent to Bush no later than Friday, before members of Congress leave for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. Reid called the benchmark language "extremely weak," but he noted that Bush had initially demanded a bill with no strings attached on Iraq. "For heaven's sake, look where we've come," Reid said. "It's a lot more than the president ever expected he'd have to agree to."

Republicans remained united throughout the debate, despite strong public opposition to the war and growing internal doubts that a military victory in Iraq is achievable. While some Republicans chastised Democrats for backing off from "surrender dates," GOP reaction was somewhat muted when details of the deal circulated yesterday afternoon.

The war debate on Capitol Hill began in January, when Bush announced plans to increase troop levels in Iraq. It has raged without pause ever since, pushing aside the Democrats' ambitious 2006 election agenda, while testing loyalties in both parties. After initially resisting all Democratic efforts to challenge Bush, many GOP lawmakers are now prepared to reassess the entire war effort once the new funding measure expires on Sept. 30.

"As our leadership from the president on down to the leaders of Congress have said repeatedly, we're not there forever," said Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who crafted the benchmark proposal with a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats. "We're there to help you so long as you, as a sovereign nation, pull your own weight, and do your responsible job."

From the outset of the battle on spending, Democratic leaders knew that their options would be limited by the party's slim majorities in both chambers. In the 51 to 49 Senate, Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) was absent after a brain hemorrhage, while independent Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), a member of the Democratic caucus, backed Bush on the war. Passage of the first spending bill was secured by a narrow 51 to 46 vote, with support from two Republicans, Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.).

Bush vetoed that bill on May 1, singling out provisions that would have required troop withdrawals to begin later this year while setting a goal of removing most U.S. combat forces by March 31, 2008. Meanwhile, the benchmarks started to circulate among Republicans as a possible alternative.

Almost all Republicans, along with Lieberman and seven Democrats, backed the Warner proposal last week in a symbolic Senate vote. In a meeting Friday with congressional leaders, White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten signaled that Bush would accept the Warner terms, but Pelosi and Reid continued to press for a withdrawal timetable, even offering Bush a waiver option.

Democrats said they would drop the domestic spending in the bill in exchange, but when Bolten declined the withdrawal offer, Reid and Pelosi put the additional billions back on the table. Last night, negotiators said Democrats had dropped just three items from the first bill, including funding for a low-income heating program and fishing industry subsidies.

"Both sides are in a position where neither can do something without the other. That's the reality," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Even before the ink was dry on the spending deal, antiwar lawmakers expressed strong opposition. "There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). But Democrats vowed to continue their quest on other legislative vehicles. The big showdown will come in several months, when funding from the new bill expires and results from the U.S. troop buildup and the Iraqi benchmarks begin to materialize.

"This is another stage in the sequencing of ending this war," said Pelosi, who added that September will be "the moment of truth."

2.

Analysis

AN IRAQ BILL NO ONE LOVED
By David Espo

Associated Press
May 25, 2007

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/05/25/ap3760677.html

The Iraq war funding bill cleared by Congress represents a triumph of divided government, beloved by none, crafted to avoid a protracted veto struggle that neither President Bush nor Democrats wanted.

"We feel like we've moved an iceberg an inch," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, acknowledging the enormity of the task confronting Democrats who took office in January determined to end the war.

Not that top Republicans were happy with legislation that included about $8 billion in domestic spending, added at Democratic insistence. "We've got a whole host of other issues that don't deserve to be put on the backs of our men and women in the military," said House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio shortly before the vote. "It's a sneaky way to do business."

Perhaps, but Bush was a full partner, his leverage diminished by approval ratings in the 30s and the war's unpopularity.

Republicans had already shown they would sustain a veto on legislation that impinges on Bush's authority as commander in chief, having done so on a bill that included a troop withdrawal timetable. But they, like Democrats, support government aid to farmers and hurricane victims.

And they were no less clear that their commitment to the current war policy isn't open-ended. "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader.

"You know, I think it's a statement of the obvious that the Iraq war is not popular," he added at a news conference on Friday. So much so that 81 percent of self-described political independents in a recent New York Times-CBS poll said things are going badly in Iraq.

If public sentiment on the war worries Republicans, it stirs a different emotion among Democrats.

"Anger that we do not have the power to make the will of the people of America the law of our land," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Durbin, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and many other anti-war Senate Democrats voted for the bill. "I cannot vote . . . to stop funding for our troops who are in harm's way," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Across the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had executed a far more complicated maneuver.

They arranged for two separate votes, one on the domestic spending, the other on war money -- but no third roll call on the combined package. That freed liberals to oppose war funds, as the speaker and 139 Democrats did. As expected, Republicans provided the bulk of the votes needed for the military money, inoculating Pelosi and her party from charges they had blocked resources the troops needed.

Several of the Democrats who sit around her leadership table parted company with the Californian.

Reps. Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, voted for the war funds, as did Reps. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

Clyburn, the party whip, noted that he frequently runs into people from Shaw Air Force Base and Fort Jackson, which are both in his home state.

"When I go home, when I go to the churches, when I go to these social events, I want to be able to -- for every parent, every spouse, every child I meet, to know that I stood there with them when they thought that I should," he said.

For all the maneuvering, Democrats had concluded that it was essential to provide funds for the Pentagon, then renew their effort to force a change in policy.

"This is not a game. They run out of money next week," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., whose speech opposing Bush's Iraq policy more than a year ago was a turning point.

By midweek, according to several officials, Democrats had abandoned their demand for a troop withdrawal timetable. Gone, too, was a proposal requiring the president to issue a public report whenever the Pentagon ordered troops shipped to Iraq without the required training, equipment or rest.

A provision threatening to cut reconstruction aid unless the Iraqi government meets standards for military and political progress was reduced to a warning. Bush retains the right to decide whether the aid will be spent.

Officials in both parties described a series of events leading to the final deal.

Reid conveyed the concessions on Monday in a phone call to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

In exchange, Reid wanted $21 billion in added spending. About $9 billion was for defense-related items, the other $12 billion for domestic programs such as hurricane relief, farmer aid, low-income children's health care, and more.

Bolten said the administration would accept the military-related add-ons, these officials said, but came back with a counteroffer that left room for about $8 billion in domestic spending.

The outlines of a $120 billion bill were in place, but the haggling continued until Wednesday night.

Bolten and Budget Director Rob Portman told Reid they could not accept several of the items on a late Democratic wish list. Among them was a provision involving the sale of Christmas ornaments by the Senate's day care center. Bush had ridiculed it at one point, and could not now sign it.

That left a $2 billion item extending pension relief to American, Continental, and other airlines. Portman told Reid it would have to go. The majority leader objected, but said he would call back.

When he did, he told the president's aides Bush could veto the bill if he wanted, but the pension provision was staying in the bill.

3.

BUSH SIGNS IRAQ SPENDING BILL
By Anne Flaherty

Associated Press
May 25, 2007

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/politics/4837504.html

WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed a bill Friday to pay for military operations in Iraq after a bitter struggle with Democrats in Congress who sought unsuccessfully to tie the money to U.S. troop withdrawals.

Bush signed the bill into law at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he is spending part of the Memorial Day weekend. In announcing the signing, White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that it came 109 days after Bush sent his emergency spending request to Congress.

Bush had rejected an earlier bill because it contained a timetable for withdrawing troops. While the measure he signed establishes political goals for the Iraqi government and ties U.S. reconstruction aid to so-called benchmarks, Bush retains authority over the funds regardless of how the government in Baghdad performs.

"Rather than mandate arbitrary timetables for troop withdrawals or micromanage our military commanders, this legislation enables our servicemen and women to follow the judgment of commanders on the ground," Bush said in a statement.

"This important bill also provides a clear roadmap to help the Iraqis secure their country and strengthen their young democracy," he said. "Iraqis need to demonstrate measurable progress on a series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation, and governance. These tasks will be difficult for this young democracy, but we are confident they will continue to make progress on the goals they have set for themselves."

The president's signature on this measure, however, doesn't end debate on Capitol Hill over the administration's war policy -- a dispute that will heat up again this fall.

"I think the president's policy is going to begin to unravel now," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who expressed disappointment that the bill did not force an end to U.S. participation in the conflict.

Democrats say the drive to bring U.S. troops home is far from over.

"We're going to keep coming back and coming back," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic caucus.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell predicted a change, and said Bush would show the way.

"I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it," McConnell said. "In other words, I think he, himself, has certainly indicated he's not happy with where we are. And I think we are looking for a new direction in the fall."

McConnell also emphasized that the Iraqis need to make progress. "We've given the Iraqi government an opportunity here to have a normal country. And so far, they've been a great disappointment to members of the Senate on both sides," he said.

The war spending bill provides about $95 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30 and billions in domestic projects, including more than $6 billion for hurricane relief. The House voted 280-142 Thursday night to pass the bill, followed by a 80-14 vote in the Senate.

Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the bill.

"I fully support our troops" but the measure "fails to compel the president to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq," said Clinton, D-N.Y.

"Enough is enough," Obama, an Illinois senator, declared, adding that Bush should not get "a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path."

Their votes continued a shift in position for the two presidential hopefuls, both of whom began the year shunning a deadline for a troop withdrawal.

Sen. John McCain, a GOP presidential contender, said the two Democrats were embracing a "policy of surrender."

"This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it's the equivalent of waving a white flag to al-Qaida," said McCain, R-Ariz. MoveOn.org is a grass-roots anti-war group that rose to prominence in last year's elections.

Thursday's legislative action capped weeks of negotiations with the White House, which agreed to accept some $17 billion more than Bush had requested as long as there were no restrictions on the military campaign.

In the months ahead, lawmakers will vote repeatedly on whether U.S. troops should stay and whether Bush has the authority to continue the war. The Democratic strategy is intended to ratchet up pressure on the president, as well as on moderate Republicans who have grown tired of defending Bush administration policy in a deeply unpopular war.

The Senate will go first when it considers a defense policy bill authorizing $649 billion in military spending in 2008. The proposed bill, approved this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, cut $12 billion from the administration's $142 billion war-related request to fund other programs, including an increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

The most critical votes on the war are expected to be cast in September, when the House and Senate debate war funding for 2008. The September votes probably will come after Iraq war commander Gen. David Petraeus tells Congress whether Bush's troop buildup plan is working. Also due by September is an independent assessment of progress made by the Iraqi government.

The U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on Iraq military operations so far, according to the congressional Government Accountability Office.