The Iraq Debate's Winners and Losers
With the Senate grinding to a halt over the "debate about debating" an anti-surge resolution, it's time for Capitol Briefing to examine who the winners and losers are in the fight over how the chamber should express its view of President Bush's plan to send at least 21,500 more troops into Iraq.
As Shailagh Murray and I wrote in Wednesday's Post, the effort to pass a nonbinding resolution -- in effect, a no-confidence vote on the president's Iraq plans -- has stalled. Democrats want to limit the debate to the Warner-Levin resolution, but Republicans want to consider another proposal, authored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), that is viewed as a support-the-troops measure that most every senator would back. Such a scenario could cause political embarrassment for Democrats who would end up with a popular resolution that is essentially pro-Bush.
So here's a look at the winners and losers in this debate ... at least in terms of the inside politics of the Senate. All of this could change dramatically if the stalemate is broken next week and a resolution is approved. And, by all means, dear readers, offer up your own suggestions in the comments section below.
So here we go: three senators up, three down:
* Chris Dodd (D-Conn.): When his Democratic leadership cut a deal with Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) to move a centrist resolution of disapproval, Dodd pounced. He was the loudest critic of the Warner language, particularly the portion that appeared to say that the Senate would never move to cut off funding for the Iraq war. This is anathema to liberals, who are not ready now to cut off funding but who want to reserve the right to do so later. Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) gave voice to those on the left, as well as to a quiet but substantial portion of the caucus that wants to take stronger, meaningful measures of opposition to Bush. "We ought to be taking stronger action," Dodd said, distinguishing himself from every other senator running for the White House in 2008.
* John McCain (R-Ariz.): McCain's positioning on the Iraq war is a risky move as he charts his campaign for the White House, but this past week he has continued to be the most articulate spokesmen on Capitol Hill in favor of the troop surge. His resolution wasn't about to win a large number of votes, but he remained consistent on the issue and, if the tide turns in favor of the Bush administration this year, he will be able to take some chunk of the credit.
* Norm Coleman and Susan Collins: We may have to come up with a new word for Sens. Coleman (Minn.) and Collins (Maine), two GOP incumbents from northern tier states up for reelection in 2008 who are already distancing themselves from the White House. Watch these two senators, they may well be voting together an awful lot this year and next. On Monday, they were the only two Republicans to cross the aisle and vote with Democrats to move forward with the debate on Warner-Levin. They showed independence, something they will be touting an awful lot so long as Bush remains unpopular in their home states.
* Joe Biden (D-Del.). Everyone thought that Biden's "clean" and "articulate" comments about Barack Obama were the worst news of his presidential campaign launch day. But it's entirely possible that the worst thing happened later that evening when his leadership undercut him and signed on to the Warner-Levin bill. Up to that point, it appeared possible that Biden's resolution, co-authored with another potential 2008 aspirant, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), would be the main vehicle through which the Senate would oppose Bush's troop surge. Then his resolution was set aside, and Biden was left to defend his comments about his other primary competitors -- instead of talking about his own anti-Bush resolution.
* John Warner (R-Va.). Warner went from being a winner to a loser and, after last night, maybe a winner again. He touted his centrist anti-surge resolution as the one measure that could win the largest number of votes. It was promoted as classic Warner -- the senatorial maverick bucking his own party. Except it hasn't ended that way. The resolution stalled, and Warner actually voted against moving ahead to debate his own resolution. Yesterday, Warner tried again to move to his resolution, but he still doesn't have enough votes. This prompted a scathing reaction from the anti-war group Americans Against Escalation in Iraq: "They were for it, before they were against it, before they were for it again."
* Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell: Majority Leader Reid (Nev.) and Minority Leader McConnell (Ky.) come away from the Iraq resolution debate with a little less luster. While Reid's failure to get any movement on these measures so far is understandable given the chamber rules, it does not bode well for future votes on Iraq. McConnell appears to have won the hand-to-hand combat on parliamentary moves on the floor, beating back Reid on the first substantive debate held this year. But at what cost? Politically, McConnell may have left a handful or more of his own caucus in the awkward position of defending Bush's Iraq war as they prepare to face tough reelection challenges next year.
Posted by: Pete | February 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aleks | February 8, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Brendan | February 8, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ZP | February 8, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Zathras | February 8, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chuck | February 8, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: grytpype | February 8, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Judge C. Crater | February 8, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chris Baker, Maine | February 8, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Denver, USA | February 8, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bert | February 9, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TomT | February 9, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason | February 9, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Michael | February 10, 2007 5:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lou in boston | February 10, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: donkykemore | February 10, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Mike | February 13, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.