Sweet column: Iraq war, ethics and immigration exposes Democratic rifts.

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Three pending major issues in Congress -- Iraq war funding, an immigration overhaul and tougher ethics rules -- are demonstrating the limits to the power of the Democratic House and Senate leaders and exposing rifts within the ranks.

Democrats have controlled both chambers since January, and this is the roughest week for their leadership. Without the ability to muster veto-proof votes and with a Republican in the White House, there is only so much they can do.


House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio e-mailed a memo with a gleeful tone showcasing Wednesday's headlines on how the Democrats had to drop their demands for a deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq in the emergency supplemental spending bill. Democrats were forced to "relent," "split," "bow," "capitulate," "back down" and "blink.''

Democrats don't deserve all those harsh headlines. The reality is that they made progress. Bush is on a shorter leash. It is doubtful that even the weak benchmarks in the bill proposed by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) would have been inserted if the Democrats had not insisted on putting in a timetable for withdrawal in the Iraq spending bill Bush vetoed a few weeks ago.

Warner's amendment forces Bush to come to Congress in July and September to report on whether the Iraqi government and military have made progress in pulling their country together and ending the sectarian violence. The Democratic Congress is demanding and getting oversight on Iraq -- absent during when the GOP ran the House and Senate. In September, Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, as well as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will have to brief lawmakers on where things stand.

Congress will also have other ways to keep pressure on Bush: a defense appropriations bill in July (though it will be very tough to vote against because it is the main military spending measure) and another Iraq supplemental funding bill in September.

Many precincts on the left are outraged at Democrats for buying into the compromise. Clearly it is painful. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California probably won't even vote for the deal she had a hand in crafting. "I'm not likely to vote for something that doesn't have a timetable of a goal of coming home," she said. The liberal and progressive Democratic community, especially the netroots, are going after all members -- GOP and Democrats -- who vote for the supplemental spending bill.

Moveon.org's political director, Eli Pariser, said in a statement that primary challengers may be recruited to run against Democrats who ran on ending the war but vote for the supplemental bill.

The role of outside agitators is to do just that. But within the chambers, members have to live with reality. When it comes to Iraq, Democrats operate in the Senate without a majority. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) votes with the GOP on Iraq and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is ill.

The Senate is working on immigration this week. It's not clear whether Congress will even be able to send Bush a bill to rewrite immigration laws and give a break -- yes it is a type of amnesty -- to the millions of immigrants who live in the United States illegally. Democrats on the left will have a hard time backing anything that does not make it easier to unite extended families and create a guest workers program, even if the numbers allowed in are reduced. Put presidential politics in the mix and the result may be a continued stalemate.
A chief architect of the bill, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), said in a statement, "The bill isn't exactly the way I would have written it, but it is a strong compromise."

Democrats pledged to clean up Washington. Pelosi and other House leaders are wrestling with their own members to produce a tough bill today with meaningful changes. It looks like a lobbyist bundling (fund-raising) disclosure measure may survive while provisions to force disclosure of phony grass-roots lobbying groups won't.
House Democrats have been reluctant to get on board -- oblivious to the fact that in the next election they could blow their thin majority on this issue alone.


I agree. The Iraq war, ethics and immigration do expose the Democrats.

Granted, rifts within the ranks confirm there is only so much the Democrats can do. Even bound, these patricians blink in haughty ways.

Iraq: "Bush is on a leash". Lovely analogy and perhaps so. However, the joy of jerking the chain will never plague Harry and Nancy; it's too hard to focus your grip while constantly blinking.

Immigration: Indeed, let us give a 'break' to those who ignore our laws. Afterall, and I paraphrase Barney, if throwing a few million blue-collar workers overboard keeps the Black Pearl afloat, then, acast me maties.

Ethics: "House Democrats have been reluctant to get on board". Well, just send out the press-gangs. Have them start at the
bar-b-que joints. You know the saying, "Where there's pork..."

Ah, the thinly sliced majority; juicy

Great articles Lynn!

House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio e-mailed a memo with a gleeful tone showcasing Wednesday's headlines on how the Democrats had to drop their demands for a deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq in the emergency supplemental spending bill. Democrats were forced to "relent," "split," "bow," "capitulate," "back down" and "blink.''

Please, he WAS ACTUALLY CRYING ON THE FLOOR LIKE A BABY PRETENDING TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No wonder the terrorists think we are weak! This was not the first time he's pulled this stunt either. Let me share with you an article of mine. The Democrats needs to somehow inform GOP elected officials that their rule #1: stick together, was not reciprocated by their owners. Here is my letter, and I have all the emails too if you want them.

It wasn’t televised, it was forbidden viewing at the hearing, but Robert Greenwald, producer of the documentary, “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers,” and Jeremy Scahill, author of, “Blackwater,’ testified before Congress May 10th for Washington’s ongoing investigation of war profiteering.

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) attacked; he had audacity to accuse GREENWALD of profiteering for making the movie. HOGWASH. Kingston is paid six figures to do what Greenwald begged and borrowed to do in his film.

I got an email from Kingston’s office. They were “verrry interested” in Greenwald’s email to me personally that discredits Kingston’s defamation. I’m speculating they are trying to find someway to use it against him, considering they had zero interest in what Greenwald produced in honor of the troops. If so, more tax dollars wasted!

Jeff, Kingston’s LA for Iraq and I had an interesting conversation. I asked him if Kingston planned to apologize to Greenwald. No such luck. Instead, he arrogantly said “they” were upset that “they” were able to testify to begin with. Republicans are used to spineless Dems; I’m not one of them. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I said.

Their defensiveness is because Scahill “didn’t even have Blackwater’s side in his book.” True, Blackwater refused participation; whose side is Jeff on anyway? Not the military’s apparently. “Defense contractors don’t make $1000 a day that just isn’t true.”

“Okay, how much do they make then?” I asked.

“About $650.00 per day and that’s only on the days they work. (How noble!) When you add in ‘benefits’ that is about the same as our military.” Like Walter Reid benefits? I wanted to know why some military families are foreclosing if they get such fabulous home exemptions? “That’s new recruits, they don’t make much at all, it depends on your rank.”

Nice. Maybe if they didn’t starve out new recruits, they would enlist, and you wouldn’t need contractors who aren’t bound by Geneva Convention!

Jeff’s biggest complaint was why Congress is brining up things that are SO 2003? He said they have since had oversight, so it’s pointless to bring it up now. “Why are they bringing it up now?” Is there a statute of limitations on treason I’m unaware of?

Besides, it’s being brought up now because Republicans voted down ANY proposals to EVEN DISCUSS IT on the floor in 2005. See S1042 and HR2862. Senator Dorgan (D-ND) tried to get investigations for BOTH Katrina and war contracts. The Republicans blocked any such inquiries.

Democrats have been investigating for over three years, but Republicans refuse to act in favor of our military. Go to Democrats.Senate.gov, Senate Democratic Policy Committee; see what contractors have done for yourselves.

Citizens need to call every Republican in Washington. They made this bed; it is solely up to them to ensure America doesn’t have to lie in it. I’m not afraid of the terrorists; I’m afraid of enabling Republicans. “Support our Troops” has become an oxymoron. The only solution is impeaching Cheney; only Republicans can make it happen.

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Lynn Sweet

<Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 24, 2007 6:44 AM.

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