Republicans in the Senate may be walking into a political trap this week, in which their insistence on considering energy legislation leads them to block significant increases in funding for the troops in Iraq.
Going into this week, the Senate Republicans insisted that they would block all the legislative measures until an energy bill was first brought to the floor.
Democratic leadership, initially furious over the obstructionism, is now calling their bluff. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last night introduced a Department of Defense Authorization bill that would, among other things, include a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel; major funding increases for research into traumatic brain injury treatment and troop suicide prevention efforts; $26 billion for the Defense Health Program, and $500 million for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. A vote could come as early as tonight.
Should the GOP stick to its guns and filibuster the measure while insisting on an energy bill vote, they may effectively remove a talking point from the party's playbook. Going into the November elections, it will be the Democrats who can argue that the other party stood in the way of funding for the troops.
Certainly, the process will create touchy questions for John McCain, who will likely miss the vote but will be asked for a position. The McCain campaign's recent ad, "Troops," accused Obama of "vot[ing] against funding our troops."
Republicans in the Senate have dug in this week, filibustering a number of bills, including legislation dealing with energy assistance for the poor and a package dubbed the Tominbus after Sen Tom Coburn, who personally blocked a number of bipartisan measures. In addition, the GOP twice filibustered efforts by Reid to bring to legislation dealing with renewable energy, which the GOP has subsequently rejected as either ineffectual or piece-meal approaches.