The Threat of a "Clean" Iraq Supplemental Bill

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

I have a new editorial in this month's edition of In These Times about the unfortunate differences between majority opinion in Congress and majority opinion in the country at large. To give folks some sense of what I meant when I say Congress's majority - unlike the majority among the American public - is not antiwar, consider the words of Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), a member of the Progressive and Out of Iraq caucuses. He told the Hill Newspaper that if the current supplemental goes down, "the alternative will be to pass a clean supplemental" without any antiwar provisions whatsoever. "Then," he said, "you're giving the administration a blank check," which would be a huge step backwards for those of us fighting to end the war. Echoing this sentiment is antiwar Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who correctly writes in a new Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed that "a no vote on this appropriation bill would be a vote to continue the war indefinitely."

Remember - despite the important House vote last week and Senate vote this week, those Democrats pushing for a so-called "clean" supplemental are already out there making it known that they are ready to undermine the antiwar movement at a moment's notice, should the current supplemental be voted down.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): "My first choice would be a clean supplemental." - Rep. Jim Cooper, 3/9/07

REP. DAN BOREN (D-OK): "I want a clean supplemental spending bill."- Dan Boren, Tulsa World, 3/9/07

REP. CHET EDWARDS (D-TX): "Edwards suggested that if common ground cannot be reached between more cautious Democrats and the Out of Iraq faction, Democrats should simply pass a 'clean' supplemental and seek GOP support. 'Either we come together or we have to have Republican votes with a clean supplemental. There are only two choices,' Edwards said." - Congress Daily, 3/7/07

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): "Earlier this month, the Senate rejected a similar timetable on the war with Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas siding with Republicans against the proposal in a 50-48 vote...Pryor remains reluctant. 'I think if the public timetable remains, Senator Pryor would likely oppose it,' said spokesman Michael Teague." - AP, 3/26/07

This is just a representative sample of what is a widespread sentiment in a not-so-small faction of pro-war Democrats - and it alludes to what I mean about seeing the congressional world as it unfortunately is, rather than as we would like it to be. For the antiwar movement, there are only three avenues for success: 1) Engineering a Senate filibuster of all Iraq spending 2) Successfully converting pro-war, pro-"clean"-supplemental Democrats like these listed here into antiwar Democrats who will hold out for an even stronger antiwar bill or 3) Passing a supplemental with strong antiwar provisions intact and with enough pro-war Democrats willing to vote for it because they feel pressure.

I have heard no one make an argument that option 1 or 2 is even remotely possible (thus, not surprisingly, I haven't heard of anyone or any organization putting together a cohesive strategy to try to do this). Thus, we are left with option 3.

Otherwise, as Hinchey and Ellison correctly say and as pro-war Democrats are out there threatening, we end up with a "clean" supplemental that simply funds the war indefinitely - a horrifying step backward.