President Bush faces increasing opposition to his war in Iraq not only from the American people, but also from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress but the stubborn President continues to defy those who dare oppose him with threats of vetoes and arbitrary punishment and depends on blind support from GOP Congressional leaders to club opposition into submission.
With polls showing support for the Iraq war at a record low, members of Congress from both parties are becoming increasingly vocal about their desire for an exit strategy.
The latest example came Thursday as a conservative, a moderate, a liberal and a libertarian teamed up in the House to try and set a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, a rare tone of unity in the politically-divided House.
Sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Tex.), the resolution calls for Bush to begin drawing down troops in Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006, but does not set a date for complete withdrawal.
Jones voted for the war, sits on the Armed Services Committee and represents the huge Marine base at Camp Lejeune. He said he believes that in the long run, his constituents “will think that we as a nation have a responsibility to take a fresh look” at goals for Iraq.
Abercrombie sees a parallel to Vietnam in that “military action is becoming its own political policy,” and said the “Homeward Bound” legislation was written to avoid blame and generate bipartisan support.
But Republican leaders continue to back Bush without question. When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tried to introduce an amendment to a military spending bill that would have given the president 30 days to show Congress criteria for determining when U.S. forces could withdraw from Iraq GOP leaders blocked it.
The legislative jockeying comes during contentious debate on domestic securing, stemming from the president’s call for Congress to renew 15 provisions of the controversial, rights-robbing USA Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year. A hearing on the Patriot Act last Friday ended in turmoil when dictatorial Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.) became irritated by a stream of criticism of the administration and gaveled the session to an end.
Sensenbrenner, under heavy criticism from Democrats, admitted he had “adjourned the hearing in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of comity that has and should continue to inform committee deliberations” but, in typical GOP attack fashion, blamed the Democrats.
“This grossly unfair and distorted depiction of my conduct demands correction,” he said. Republicans leapt to their feet with applause and cheers of “Hoaaaa!” in a display that looked more like a high school pep rally than the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Sensenbrenner was pissed over a resolution of disapproval proposed by a committee Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.). The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), expressed shock during the hearing at Sensenbrenner’s “hostility” toward lawmakers and witnesses.
“I’ve never, ever experienced a witness being stopped dead in mid-sentence,” said Conyers, a 40-year member of the House.
Scandal-ridden House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), under investigation for fraud and misuse of campaign funds, sat issued a statement calling Sensenbrenner “well respected” and saying that his work on the Patriot Act has been “conducted in a fair, bipartisan, and comprehensive manner.” Republicans then killed Nadler’s resolution.
But Bush faces other problems over Britian’s infamous “Downing Street Memo” that shows the President was determined to invade Iraq with or without evidence to support his war.
A recent Gallup poll of 1,003 adults found that 59% of Americans favor partial or total withdrawal. In another sign of ebbing support, 42% said they felt that the war was worth it, down from a high of 76% in the war’s early days.
In another slap at Bush, the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations slashed a White House foreign-aid request, cutting $1.25 billion from the $3 billion the President had sought for the Millennium Challenge Account for developing countries.