Democratic congressional leaders, whose efforts to force a withdrawal from Iraq were stymied last month, plan a summer of repeated Iraq-related votes designed to force Republican lawmakers to abandon the White House before the fall.Read the whole thing. President Bush beat the Democrats fair and square on the benchmarks and timetables issue. The Democrats were chastened. Now the Democratic leadership is freaking out, as the party's hard-left constituency continues to pressure the congressional majority to cut and run from Iraq. The Times piece discusses the netroots organizations especially (MoveOn.org, and so forth), noting the pressure they'll put on Pelosi and company should they further deviate from the public's withdrawal mandate.
At the same time, antiwar groups are expanding their campaign to pressure GOP incumbents in their home states.
Both efforts seek to ensure that anxious Republican lawmakers — many of whom have said they want to wait until September to assess President Bush's Iraq strategy — get no break from the war over the summer.
"The debate on Iraq will continue," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said last week. Pelosi, who in March helped push Democrats to embrace a withdrawal of American combat forces, has pledged that the House will vote on numerous measures aimed at ending the war.
Tom Matzzie, campaign manager for Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, the leading coalition against the war, promised an equally unpleasant summer for Republicans whenever they return home."Our job is to go into the congressional districts of members and create a political environment that is toxic," he said. "The public is there already. It is really about focusing their anger."
In addition to pressuring Republicans, an aggressive legislative agenda also may be crucial for Democrats as they work to recover from party leaders' decision last month to abandon a withdrawal timeline.
Bush vetoed a war funding bill that included a specific date to begin pulling out U.S. forces, and he never wavered from his pledge to veto a second version of the bill if it contained any kind of timeline for withdrawal.
Legislative action is expected to pick up after Congress returns from its current recess. Both the Senate and House leadership are proposing votes designed to keep up the pressure (on defense authorization bills, for example). On the House side, of particular note is the proposed initiative to repeal Congress' 2002 vote authorizing the American mission to Iraq. Hillary Clinton is likely to sponsor a similar de-authorization vote on the Senate side as well. (No surprise there, considering how quickly Hillary caved to grassroots pressure for a precipitous withdrawal.)
Recall, though, from an earlier post, that the rank-and-file Repubican majority opposes timetable proposals on Iraq. Still, in general, Bush is certainly feeling the heat in most public opinion polls. Public sentiment is apparently having an effect on the administration, in any case, as USA Today reported recently that Senate Republicans expect Bush to approve a troop drawdown after the release of the Petraeus report in September. I expect the general's progress report to be of the "on the one hand" variety, and should U.S. forces in fact see real progress in combating the insurgency over the next few months, perhaps evidence of success on the ground will shift some future polls more toward the Republcan rank-and-file's position.