Pelosi Gives Up

As reported in The Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given up on legislation that would mandate the redeployment of troops from Iraq.

The article, from an exchange on Sunday’s Fox News Sunday, says that voters want the war to end and had an expectation that Congress had that power. “You know we can’t without a Presidential signature”, Pelosi concluded.

So ends a battle that has divided the Democratic Caucus in the House and has been further hamstrung by the slim Democratic majority in the Senate.

Since the May funding that included a timeline for withdrawal was vetoed, the Democratically controlled Congress has struggled to find a common strategy to withdraw or redeploy troops currently serving in Iraq. The May 24 supplemental, which was passed and signed by President Bush, but had no real teeth, was viewed by many on the left as a concession of defeat. Since that time there has been considerable debate and commentary on how the Democratic leadership of the Congress should proceed. Still, no consensus has emerged.

Proponents of a congressionally mandated withdrawal argue that the Congress should continue to hold a hard line on the Administration. Moderates fear the reprisals that any delay on funding might bring them in their 2008 campaigns. These circumstances have left conservative Democrats and Republicans who are content to continue funding the war with few conditions with the most power going forward.

Some 68% of the American people feel the war has been mishandled according to a recent poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post. In that same poll, 55% of respondents felt that the congress should do more, up from 53% in late August, and 67% feel that funding should be reduced in the upcoming supplemental. Clearly there’s widespread support for Congress to step up. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what’s in the cards going forward.

Since the landmark election of last November, Pelosi has made statements that have diminished the power given her and her leadership team. It started in mid-December when she declared, “Impeachment was off the table”. While the intention of that statement was explained away as “Congress has too many things to deal with”, one never takes any option off the table when in a position to negotiate. In doing so, Pelosi weakened her position and may have hamstrung efforts to oversee departments within the executive branch, as is the duty of the Congress.

This was a tactical error on her part, one that she has repeated in various ways over the past 8 months. As these self-inflicted losses mount, elements within the party and independent organizations have mounted campaigns to highlight the failures of leadership in the Executive, with mixed results. One can only assume that these campaigns will continue, and perhaps become more frequent and fevered over the coming weeks and months.

It is unfortunate that Pelosi has chosen passivity over the rhetoric that helped hand the Congress over to the Democratic Party. By backing down now, she has effectively neutered any effort to check this administration policy, and that’s just sad.

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