Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, January 10, 2007
To no-one's surprise, President Bush has announced his "new strategy": 20,000 more troops. To no-one's surprise, the November election has not changed Bush's underlying policy one whit. To no-one's surprise, he ignored the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, in particular, the call for diplomacy with Syria and Iran.
No new information was revealed.
Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Pelosi took an important first step when they pledged that the Senate and the House would vote on a resolution against this escalation. As the New York Times reported, "the resolutions would represent the most significant reconsideration of Congressional support for the war since it began."
But while it is tremendously important for Congress to go on the record against the escalation, Congress can't stop there. It cannot absolve itself of responsibility by merely passing a resolution.
If Congress passes resolutions against the escalation, and President Bush ignores it, then Americans deserve an up or down vote on Senator Kennedy's legislation that would legally block the surge. There is no question that Congress has the authority to do this, as the Boston Globe reported, citing a politically diverse group of experts.
Clearly, the main thing that holds back Reid and Pelosi from scheduling a vote on the Kennedy language is not their own personal views. They want the war to end. It's not fear of being called soft on terrorism, or of not supporting the troops. It is simply the well-founded fear that they would not be able to carry the rest of the Democrats with them.
It makes sense to vote on the nonbinding resolutions first. There's no point in voting on enforceable language if you can't pass a resolution, and there is every reason to believe that such a resolution would pass, and put significant pressure on the White House.
But if the resolutions pass, and Bush ignores it, then the majority of Americans would be best served by an up-or-down vote on the Kennedy language. This would be a critical next step. Regardless of the immediate outcome, we will be one step closer to passing legislation that starts to bring the troops home. We cannot accept the notion that Congress is irrelevant.
We voted in November to end this war, not to prolong it or escalate it. We deserve the opportunity to try to pass legislation that will begin to bring this war to an end. The sooner we start, the sooner we will finish.
Help get this message through to Congress right away. Sign our petition calling for Reid and Pelosi to schedule a vote on the Kennedy language as soon as the resolutions against the escalation have passed.