Thursday, February 08, 2007

Judd Gregg Hurls Another Red Herring Onto Senate Floor

It must be handy for the Republican party to have a guy like Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) around. Whenever they start taking the heat over some policy blunder or, as the country is painfully aware, their loyalty to George W. Bush visibly outweighs their love of country on the Iraq war, Gregg's willing to step up to the plate and be Smokescreen Man.

Gregg's primary role doesn’t have as much to do with debating the great issues of our time as much as it is about creating distractions from those issues. When Senate Republicans were on the wrong side of the minimum wage debate, Gregg performed this function by dredging up the line-item veto -- for a president with Bush's track record of incompetence -- to distract people from Republicans' attempts at screwing the working poor yet again. (The bill, which Gregg never really intended on passing, was defeated on January 24.)

Now, Senate Republicans know the whole country wants an honest debate on the Bush-McCain Doctrine of escalating the Iraq war, so they turn to Smokescreen Man again to try to distract the media by putting forth his own Iraq-escalation resolution. Because Gregg's resolution is about as sincere and meaningful as his love affair with the line-item veto, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is unwilling to waste time on the Senate floor debating it and Republicans have now stomped away from the table, refusing to discuss any aspect of escalating the Iraq war.

So why wouldn’t Reid just let Gregg's piece of silliness come to the floor? One reason is that the Continuing Resolution passed by the House last week -- a budget measure necessary to keep the government running after February 15 -- must be debated and passed within days and there's little time to spend on Gregg's charade at the moment.

More importantly, the language in the Gregg proposal is pure nonsense that's meant only to back Democrats into a corner, where they can't win no matter which way they vote.

The alleged purpose of Gregg's resolution is to express "the sense of the Congress that no funds should be cut off or reduced for American troops in the field which would result in undermining their safety or their ability to complete their assigned missions."

You can read the text of the legislation here -- it's just a few short paragraphs -- but it asserts the supreme authority of the president as Commander in Chief and says that the role of the Congress is to "fully and adequately provide funding for United States military forces, especially when they are at war and are defending the Nation."

Putting aside the fact that the troops in Iraq are fighting for Bush's failed policy and are not "defending the nation" from a real threat, the resolution is wrong to the extent that it is not Congress's responsibility to fund whatever mess the Executive Branch's gets the country into -- that's why Congress has the "power of the purse."

But here's the part of the resolution that Gregg and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) want Democrats to have to vote on:
"Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field, as such action with respect to funding would undermine their safety or harm their effectiveness in pursuing their assigned missions."
This puts Reid and the Democrats in a "when did you stop beating your wife?" position, where they can vote against the Gregg measure and be accused of not supporting the troops or they can vote for it and possibly throw away the only Constitutional option they have to stop the White House's effort to push our military into deeper hell. The Warner-Levin resolution has the same language about funding, but at least has the primary purpose of opposing the escalation -- the Gregg measure does nothing but try to put Democrats in an untenable position.

That's the resolution the Republicans want to debate because it has nothing to do with helping the troops and everything to do with muddying the waters to avoid talking about what Congress is going to do about the Iraq quagmire.

And they know it's a vote they could probably win -- who's going to vote against a resolution saying we shouldn’t abandon the troops? And they would love nothing better than to be able to shift attention from the incompetent, deadly policy their president has pursued to their political opponents and to say "look at how Democrats don't support the troops."

It's a disgusting bit of cynicism under the best of circumstances and downright un-American when we have people dying in Iraq for this disastrous policy.

So when Reid said early this week that Republicans "can run, but can't hide," he was referring to distractions like this. And when Mitch McConnell goes to the microphone and talks about how nasty the Democratic Leader is and how he won’t allow for "legislative fairness," he's really just steamed because Harry Reid won’t let them once again change the subject.