Iraq strategy for the Democrats

No need for a filibuster-proof or veto-proof majority. Stick the Webb Amendment on the Defense Appropriation, and refuse to let it, or a Continuing Resolution, get to the President’s desk without that amendment attached.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing about what Senate Democrats should do about Iraq, all of it premised on the idea that they need either a filibuster-proof (60-vote) majority or a veto-proof (67-vote) majority. To which I can only say, “Huh? Howzzat again?”

Anything that can be ridden on the Defense Appropriations bill (or on a continuing resolution) doesn’t need 60 votes in the Senate. It needs 51 votes in the Senate, or 218 in the House, that will stand firm.

Take, for example, the Webb Amendment, forbidding troops from being required to serve tours in Iraq longer than the spells between tours. If passed, it would force a troop drawdown by spring.

The Democrats should offer the Webb Amendment when the Defense Appropriation comes up. If the Republicans want to filibuster, fine. Don’t pull the amendment. Just let them keep filibustering. As long as the amendment is on the floor, there can be no vote on the bill itself. Keep calling cloture votes, one per day. After a few days, start asking how long the Republicans intend to withhold money to fund troops in the field in order to pursue their petty partisan agenda.

If the Republicans in the Senate hold firm, it’s their stubbornness that’s holding up the bill. If they fold, and the bill gets to the President’s desk and he vetoes it, then pass the same damned bill again. And start asking how long the President intends to block funding for troops in the field in order to pursue his petty partisan agenda.

As of October 1, there’s no money to fund the war. So the usual move is to pass a continuing resolution, which keeps the money flowing until the appropriation passes. Fine. Pass a continuing resolution with the Webb Amendment attached. If the CR runs into a filibuster or a veto, ask how long …

Really, this isn’t very hard. With the voters overwhelmingly interested in getting us the hell out of Iraq, the Democrats can make full use of the power of the purse without worrying about a backlash, especially with Webb as the public face of the campaign.

Footnote Plan B is to pass the amendment in the House and let the Senate conferees accept the House version. Then it goes back to the Senate for a straight up-or-down vote, with the Republican dead-enders in the position of directly voting against money to fund the troops in the field. Not a vote I’d care to defend, especially if I were up for re-election next year.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com