House Democratic leaders were hard at work on Wednesday to round up the votes in favor of a $50 billion "bridge fund" that would require the president start bringing US troops home.
A Democratic leadership aide said she expected the bill to pass by a margin similar to the initial May vote on the 2007 emergency war budget, which only 10 Democrats, mostly members of the Progressive Caucus, rejected. And an aide to a progressive member confirmed that Democratic leaders were meeting with the party's liberal wing this afternoon to ensure that their votes were secure.
"The leadership is starting to make sure they have the votes to pass the thing, and I think they do," said the progressive Democrat's aide.
But House Republicans were offering up hopeful spin of their own. They pointed to an afternoon floor speech by Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington Democrat who came out in favor of President Bush's troop surge this summer, that they hoped would peel support from the Democratic spending bill. They claimed his lead might bring more moderate and conservative Democrats to their side.
"He gave an impassioned speech on floor this afternoon, and pleaded with his colleagues for time because he said security is being achieved," said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference. "Other Democrats probably share that view, although he's certainly the highest profile member that came out in public."
But Patru acknowledged that he couldn't say how many Democrats might cross over and vote with Republicans on the bill.
"There are rumors swirling all over the Hill that they're vacillating between euphoria and a complete meltdown," he noted.
Update: A spokesman for Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) just told us that the congressman was unlikely to vote for the proposed "bridge fund." His sticking point? A certain date for withdrawal in the bill. It should be noted that the bill does not contain a certain date, but a goal of December 15, 2008 by which all US troops should be redeployed from Iraq.
Baird and Boren, it should be noted, are both members of a "bipartisan compact" with 12 Democratic colleagues and 14 Republicans who pledged to find "consensus" on the war. The 12 additional Democrats in this group are a likely target for Republican pressure to switch sides.
Buzz around the Hill also points to another issue of a political nature. Moderates of both parties, but particularly among some House Democrats, apparently don't like the message the bill sends. The President asked for $200 billion to fund the troops for the whole year. The bill only provides the Pentagon with $50 billion for about four months of operations. The moderate members don't want to be asked why they "didn't fund the troops" when they go home for Thanksgiving.