Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Democratic Iraq-Withdrawal Resolution Explained

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the unified Democratic bill last week that would force George W. Bush to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq on a strict timeline, it was the culmination of many discussions among Senate Democrats to pull together one piece of legislation that would make everyone at least a little bit happy.

And Reid appears to have done that with S.J. Res. 9, the United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007.

For something so important to the lives of so many people, the legislation -- which is binding upon Bush and will have the force of law -- is remarkably simple and straightforward. Its main premise is that the circumstances in place when Bush was granted authorization (in 2002) to attack Iraq -- even if those circumstances were fictitious -- have changed significantly and that the original resolution is effectively expired. It also states that American troops "should not be policing a civil war."

The meat of the resolution comes in the next part, which says that Bush must "commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq…"

It then lists as the only exceptions, troops to be used for protecting remaining "coalition personnel and infrastructure," those necessary to train Iraqi troops and forces intended expressly for targeted, not general, counter-terrorism operations.

Finally, the Reid resolution says that this should all be done in conjunction with local and regional diplomatic efforts and that Bush must report to the Congress within 60 days, and every 90 days thereafter, on his progress in getting this done.

That's it. Simple, to the point and, if passed, it will get the job done. It doesn't get our troops out of there as fast as many of us would have liked but, more than any place in Washington, the Senate is about forging compromise and this may be the best we're going to get.

Bush will certainly veto this bill if it passes and, at that point, it's a matter of conscience for Republicans in considering whether or not to join with Democrats to override the veto -- 67 votes would be needed -- and, for the 21 GOP Senators who must run for office again in 2008, it's a matter of them being smart enough to consider their own political survival.

But it may not even get that far... Republicans have steadfastly refused to even debate any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq and, when a motion to proceed on Reid's bill is put forth on the Senate floor, I won't be even slightly surprised if the Republicans block it -- so much for them having any "conscience" if that happens.

With Reid committed to getting a relatively quick vote on this, we should know soon.