After months of debate, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a supplemental funding bill for the Iraq War that will continue funding the war through the September 30, 2007 end of the fiscal year. West Michigan Representatives Vern Ehlers and Pete Hoekstra voted for the bill, as did Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
In the “compromise” bill, Congressional Democrats dropped earlier timetables for the redeployment of United States military personnel in Iraq and essentially gave President George W. Bush the exact bill he requested earlier this year. There are a series of “benchmarks” in the bill and a requirement that President Bush send reports to Congress on July 10, 2007 and September 15, 2007 on progress of the Iraqi government towards the benchmarks. The eighteen benchmarks include the passage of a new oil law, the passage of a de-Baathification law, de-militarizing militia groups, supporting the “surge” and its Baghdad security operations, and other such measures. Democrats and Republicans have been largely silent on the issue of whether or not the United States has the legal authority to force such benchmarks on the Iraqi people. Most disturbingly, President Bush is given the authority to waive the benchmarks and reporting requirements if he “submits to Congress a written certification setting forth a detailed justification for the waiver.” This waiver option means that the bill has no mechanism to hold the Bush administration accountable for the ongoing slaughter in Iraq.
The bill also contains a section that requires President Bush to “redeploy” US forces from Iraq if the Iraqi government calls for such an action in their parliament. At a news conference yesterday, President Bush stated that he respects the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and that “if they were to say leave, we would leave.” However, it is unlikely that the United States would seriously honor such a request. Already, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers have signed a petition demanding a timetable for withdrawal, yet there has been no official response from the United States. Presidential candidate and Senator John McCain responded to the petition a couple of weeks ago with what would likely be the response of the Bush administration, stating that “the consequences of failure” are too high in Iraq to leave despite the “respect” he holds for the views of the Iraqi parliament.
Even though the bill does nothing to bring the occupation to an end or increase Congressional oversight of the war, it garnered the support of many Democrats who in recent weeks have claimed to be working to end the war. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has in many ways led the Democratic Party in the debate over the supplemental, stated that the voted was “a small step forward,” despite the fact that she voted against the bill. In his floor speech on the bill Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who has been a strong proponent benchmarks for the Iraqi government, stated that he “oppose[s] the toothless benchmarks and momentum-delaying reports in this bill.” Senator Levin stated:
Four years of painful history have shown that the only way to accomplish that is to write into law a requirement that we reduce the numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq beginning in 120 days
However, rather than voting against the measure or offering an alternative proposal, Levin voted for this bill. In recent weeks, he pulled an earlier proposal that called for the redeployment of United States soldiers within 120 days and voted against another bill calling for the redeployment of US soldiers from Iraq to begin within 120 days and conclude by March 31, 2008.
The response from the antiwar movement and those in the Democratic Party that support an end to the war has been strong. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said yesterday that the bill means “we will have more Americans killed, more Americans maimed, more Americans kidnapped in a situation that doesn’t make sense.” Represenative Dennis Kucinich appeared on Demoracy Now and criticized the Democratic Party for passing legislation on this issue, arguing that what was needed was for the Congress to say no to funding the war. Kucinich further argued that the bill is out of step with the wishes of those living in the United States. A recent poll supports his assertion, showing that a record six out of ten Americans do not believe that the United States should have invaded Iraq with three in four people saying that things are going poorly in Iraq. 63% of Americans supported a timetable for withdrawal in the bill.