White House Browbeats Dem Freshmen On War Money: "You'll Never Hear From Us Again"
The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won't get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday.
"We're not going to help you. You'll never hear from us again," Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen. She wouldn't say who is issuing the threats, and the White House didn't immediately return a call. [UPDATE: White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says Woolsey's charge is not true.]
Woolsey said she herself had not been pressured because the White House and leadership know she's a firm no vote. But she had heard from other members about the White House pressure.
"Nancy's working with it. It's going to be a very close vote," Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn.), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday. "We don't have any Republican leeway, so far we have no Republican going to vote for it."
"We'll pass it, but it'll be a close vote. Every vote will count," Murtha said.
Woolsey and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are both ardent opponents of the war and no friends of the IMF, which is in line for a $100 billion extension of credit in the same bill. Both pointed out that the Democratic leadership didn't bring the bill up for a vote on Friday, indicating they weren't confident they had the votes.
"It says something that this hasn't been brought up yet," Kucinich said. "I will tell you there's a good number of members holding solid. That's why this thing hasn't passed yet."
Kucinich said he's whipping the 51 Democrats who previously voted against the war funding and also whipping Democrats who have voted against the IMF in the past. He said that tremendous pressure was being exerted on the folks leaning against it.
"This is politics, you know, there's a lot of pressure put on members," he said. "But from what I can see, people are concerned that when they go back home, they're going to have to explain why they voted for the war if their constituency's opposed to it. People who have consistently opposed the war are going to have difficulty explaining why they switched."
"There are a lot of progressives who don't like the IMF," said Woolsey. Kucinich is making the case to colleagues that the IMF loan is merely a backdoor bailout of European banks.
Woolsey, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she held a meeting earlier this week among Democrats opposing the package but is not actively whipping against it.
The GOP is also objecting to the inclusion of IMF money in the war bill. Kucinich recalled that the last time progressive Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat a Democratic agenda item came in 1999, when 26 Democrats sided with Republicans to block President Clinton's continuing bombing of Serbia.
"Republicans had their own agenda," recalled Kucinich.
The White House may be forced to drop the IMF provision and fight for it another day, but it's a top administration priority.
"That may happen," said Kucinich. "But as long as it's in there, it's a force that's moving in the direction of defeat of the bill."
UPDATE: The Netroots are pushing increasingly hard against the war bill and have compiled a whip count.
Jeff Muskus contributed reporting
Ryan Grim is the author of the just-released book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America