I’ve been following the debate that’s been on the Hill recently about the supplemental appropriations. What I’ve found particularly interesting is the political aspects of the spending bill and how the Democrats have been using their majority position in the House to add on additional elements to the bill. One of these add-ons I feel is quite appropriate, but the others, I feel, are not.
The Democrats are working to include a provision in the supplemental appropriation that in addition to funding the President’s request would also require that combat troops be removed from Iraq by September 2008. See this Washington Post article for more background. This is a full six months beyond the March 2008 date suggested by the bipartisan Iraq study group. Some might argue that it is wrong to tie these two things together. They would argue that we should not link the funding of troops to the decision to keep them there or not. Everyone agrees these days that we should always provide adequate funding for the troops. In the post Vietnam era there has been strong support for the troops even in unpopular military actions. My analysis, though, is that this approach to policy making has been formed in large part by political calculations. No lawmaker wants to ever be accused of not supporting our troops. Republicans are almost daring the Democrats to cut funding. They feel that such a move would be political winner for the Republicans as they portray the Democrats as unsupportive of our troops in harms way.
This is precisely why I believe that it makes sense to link the two policies. A legislator should be able to both support the troops but also call for their redeployment. Many, though, who are supportive of our involvement in Iraq, would very much like to continue to wield the “Democrats don’t support our troops” political threat. Yes, this does force our President to either accept the bill or veto it. He has threatened to veto it. However, he would then face the same political fallout that has been facing the Democrats for the past several months. It’s time to recognize that one can support the troops and also work for an end to the our involvement in the conflict. They are not mutually exclusive. It’s time that the “support the troops” mantra is no longer used a political weapon.
The Democrats, however, are certainly not immune from overly politicizing this legislation. There is much blame to go around and they certainly should bear some of it. This recent article gives several examples of how Democrats are adding in completely unrelated items to the supplemental appropriations in order to get the support of otherwise skeptical Representatives. I completely recognize that this type of horsetrading (some might call bribery) goes on all the time in order to get sufficient votes on legislation. However, the decision to go to war, to leave a war, and to fund our troops, are decision so important that they should not be clouded by bribes of support on pet projects in the districts of skeptical legislators. Certainly many of these projects are worthwhile (ie disaster relief). However, such legislation should be introduced on its own merits. We need our elected officials to take a stand on the issue of the war and to suffer or benefit from the consequences of their decisions.