War funding would break Dem promises
May 6, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is about to lead her party into a major showdown over Iraq funding by violating two Democratic campaign pledges in one fell swoop.

To the critics, whether anti-war activists or House Republicans, Pelosi has made her feelings clear: Get over it.

This week's maneuvering over a $200 billion war spending bill has revealed Pelosi self-confidently playing what she believes — with increasing evidence — is a strong hand.

Strong enough that she is expected to break one promise — her 2006 pledge for a more open and inclusive committee process — by circumventing the powerful House Appropriations Committee on the Iraq bill.

And when the final Iraq bill reaches the president's desk, any troop withdrawal conditions are likely to be gone from the legislation. That is another 2006 pledge that has fallen by the wayside.

Pelosi's calculation, say political analysts, seems clear. Democrats are using the Iraq bill as leverage for billions of dollars in domestic spending priorities. As for anti-war activists, they seem to accept the speaker's logic: More than 40 previous Iraq votes have left Democrats maxed out in terms of legislative efforts to dictate an end to the war over a veto-wielding President Bush.

Most of all, the early signs are that there will not be a backlash from voters. Democratic victories in recent special elections — Don Cazayoux in Louisiana and Bill Foster in Illinois — suggest that individual candidates are not suffering from the low public approval ratings that are afflicting the Democratic Congress.

House Republicans, protesting the bypassing of the Appropriations Committee, promise floor theatrics, with numerous floor votes when the Iraq bill comes for a House vote.

Explaining the threatened tantrum, Jo Maney, spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Rules Committee, said: "You said you were going to do something and you didn't. They are using process for political objectives."

Democrats countered that Republicans wanted to slow down progress on the floor. "Voters are frustrated about Iraq, but they know Democrats have pushed to bring the war to a responsible end," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.

Some important voices in the anti-war movement, meanwhile, are not blaming Democratic leaders for the inability to move war policy despite the 2006 campaign promises.

"People appreciate the leadership of the party have pushed this issue and advanced this cause," said Tom Andrews, the head of Win Without War. "Are we frustrated? Yes. But do we understand the dynamics [of Congress]? Yes. We're doing everything we can."

Political analysts also say voters don't care about procedural power plays, and those who care about the war realize that Democrats have stymied filibusters and vetoes when they tried to force troop withdrawals.

"In general, the public associates the war with Republicans and the president — there doesn't seem to be any political fallout for Democrats," said Julian Zelizer, a political science professor at Princeton University. "This [election] is not about the will of the Democrats to stop this war. ... And Republicans can't focus on Democrats' abuse of power. Democrats have only been in power two years."

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