Congress and Iraq: Two steps back

Congress votes to appropriate more funds for Iraq war as requested by the Bush administration, without timetables for withdrawal or other constraints on occupation, other than nonbinding security "benchmarks" for Iraqi government

Last week the U.S. Congress voted again (House Resolution 2206) to appropriate funds for the Iraq war as requested by the Bush administration, without timetables for withdrawal or other constraints on the U.S. occupation, other than nonbinding security "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government. The vote in the House was 280-142 (11 members not voting); in the Senate it was much worse, 80-14 (six senators not voting). It was a significant setback from the congressional vote, earlier this year, to enforce withdrawal timetables – a bill that passed strongly in the House and narrowly in the Senate but with insufficient support to withstand the presidential veto that followed. The bill provides sufficient funding to sustain the war at least through September, although opponents say they will renew efforts to impose a withdrawal timetable via the overall Defense Appropriations Bill, scheduled for consideration in July.

Both Texas senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted for the bill; the Texas House delegation provided more yes votes (27) than any other state. Only five Texas House members (four Democrats and one Republican) voted no: Austin's Lloyd Doggett, Houston's Al Green and Sheila Jackson-Lee, Dallas' Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Lake Jackson Republican Ron Paul. Nine Texas Democrats voted for the bill and only four against. Overall, Republicans voted 194-2 in favor of the bill; Democrats were 140-86 against.

Shortly after the vote, Naked City asked Doggett, who has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, to comment on the meaning of the vote and its aftermath. "I was very encouraged a few weeks back," Doggett said, "when we were able to get 171 votes for what was called the McGovern amendment, to demand a plan for a phased withdrawal – beginning to withdraw within 90 days and to get the job completed within 180 days after that. It was a strong showing. Yesterday the showing was not as strong in the House, and I thought the vote in the Senate was really troubling, that there were that few [senators] who were willing to go on record against giving a blank check to the president. … I'd hoped that we were going to be building our numbers up, and yesterday we ended up with fewer votes than we had a few weeks ago. …

"I think that from the standpoint of the Out of Iraq Caucus – we will no doubtedly meet next week and plan our course for the next few weeks – but we have no choice but to continue doing all we can to try to bring other members around to our point of view. … What I wanted to see was that each time we had a few votes more so that there was a steady showing of more opposition to this war. My sense, without having talked to anybody in the Senate but having gone back and forth with people in the House, is that we have too many people who still fear the kind of attacks that are being made – all the 'surrender' and 'defeatist' stuff – they view that as more of a danger, than not being strong enough against Bush and the war. … But I'm concerned – 'supporting the troops' means we don't have more of them killed by September, and undoubtedly that will now happen. … I don't have any reassuring answer to what happened yesterday, other than to continue the struggle."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

U.S. Congress, Lloyd Doggett, Iraq War

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