For the second straight weekend, top Senate Democrats shrunk further away from core principles they had set out in the Iraq war debate, signaling Sunday that they were prepared to drop a timetable mandating the withdrawal of U.S. troops, should President Bush fulfill his vow to veto current war funding legislation.
Last Sunday, senior Democrats said that they would not hold back funding for the war if the president vetoed a bill including an Iraq withdrawal timetable. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, reiterated that point on ABC’s “This Week.” He said, “We’re not going to vote to cut funding, period.”
Sen. Carl Levin (AP Photo/ABC News, Lauren Victoria Burke)After a veto, he said, “there’s a number of options. Either we can keep the benchmarks part of the bill without saying that the troops must begin to come back.” And if that doesn’t work, “what we will leave will be benchmarks, for instance, which would require the president to certify to the American people if the Iraqis are meeting the benchmarks for political settlement, which they, the Iraqi leaders, have set for themselves.”
Levin’s comments, and similar statements by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, are the clearest sign yet that senior Democrats won’t force a confrontation with the president that would deny funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush yesterday repeated his vow to reject the legislation passed by the House and Senate that provides more than $100 billion for the military while also setting a timetable. Democrats don’t have enough votes to override a veto.
Once the legislation is vetoed, the Senate might modify the bill to drop the troop deadline and require the Iraqi government to meet specific goals, Levin said. If Bush also vetoes that measure, lawmakers might modify the legislation further to require Bush to certify that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is meeting its own benchmarks, he said.
Schumer, of New York, said Democrats want to keep pressure on the administration to change its Iraq policies while keeping money flowing to the military.
“We will try to come up with a way by talking with the White House, trying to compromise with the White House that both supports the troops and yet changes the strategy in Iraq,” Schumer, 56, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.
Levin also said most Democrats won’t go along with a separate proposal endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that would cut off funding for combat troops in Iraq next March.
“We’re not going to vote to cut funding, period,” Levin said. “Even Harry Reid acknowledged that that’s not going to happen. He has a personal position, which he said was not the caucus position.”
Sheesh. I wish these guys would get their positions straight.
They’ve claimed they weren’t going to stop funding the troops before, so I’ll believe this when I see it.