By Kenneth J. Theisen, 11/7/06
The midterm elections are today. Many people will go to the polls thinking that they are voting to end the war in Iraq. Some believe that if the Democrats take control of the House and Senate that they will then have the “power of the purse” to halt the war. This is based on the premise that Congress must vote on appropriation bills and has the power to determine how money is spent by the executive branch controlled by the President. If the Democrats control Congress then they can stop appropriating money for the $8 billion-a-month war. If they do so, the President will have to withdraw from Iraq. But is this likely to happen? Let’s look at the recent past to determine the likely future.
In every vote for appropriations for the war since it began in 2003,
the majority of Democrats have voted to fund it. In the June 2006
appropriations” vote on the war, the bill was passed by a 351-67 vote
in the House. The Democrats did not even engage in much debate on this
bill before most of them voted in favor of it. Other appropriation
votes have met the same fate.
Well at least the likely new chairs of the House and Senate
Appropriations Committees are against the war, right? In the House,
Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin would be Appropriations Committee chairman
if Democrats win. In the Senate, Senator Robert Byrd would lead the
Senate Appropriations panel. Both have spoken out against the war. But
both currently hold appropriations committee seats and have
consistently voted for the more than $500 billion so far allocated for
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Well maybe we can expect the leaders of the House and Senate to lead
the battle to cut off funds for the war. Do not count on it. In the
election campaign, Democratic Party leaders have repeatedly stated they
would not turn their backs on American troops fighting in Iraq.
If the Democrats win the House, Nancy Pelosi will be the likely
House Leader. In answer to a recent question about cutting off funding
for the war, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hamill stated, “[Nancy Pelosi] has
consistently stated that Congress must ensure that our troops have the
resources they need.”
Harry Reid of Nevada will be the Senate Majority Leader if the
Democrats take control of the Senate. His views on a funding cutoff –
“We”re going to continue to give the troops everything they need,” said
Jim Manley, spokesman for the Senator.
Well if the Democratic leaders have no guts to cut off the funding
maybe we can count on the anti-war Democrats in Congress to lead a
rebellion from below. Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts
has introduced a bill seeking to prohibit funds to deploy armed forces
to Iraq. But even he is openly skeptical of its chances for passage.
He should be, given that it has only 18 cosponsors out of 435 House
members. In the Senate, things are equally bleak. In a vote earlier
this year on a bill to require redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq to
be substantially completed by July 1, 2007 only 13 Senators out of 100
voted for it.
And the Bush regime is not exactly quaking in its feet at the
prospect of the Democrats forcing the President to withdraw troops from
Iraq. In October, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino threw down a
challenge to the Democrats in an article in the Washington Post, “How
would they force the president to withdraw troops? Yell?” But even
yelling may be way too much to expect from most of the Democratic