Sitting on the Iraq Fence

Here are some details on the House’s 218-208 vote on the Iraq funding bill that sets a timetable for withdrawal.

The 13 Democrats who broke ranks were a nearly equal mix of antiwar members, such as Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, and so-called Blue Dog moderates, such as Reps. Jim Marshall of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah.

The two Republicans who supported the bill were Reps. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Walter Jones of North Carolina. The two members voting present were Reps. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from Missouri, and Pete Stark, a California Democrat.

What is up with Emery and Stark? How can you vote “present” on the single biggest issue of the day?

I don’t see any statement tonight from Stark, but he voted “present” on a similar measure last month. He’s a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, which seems to want to withdraw troops more rapidly than the bill would allow, hence his opposition to it. He didn’t vote against it like Kucinich et al, though, because he wanted the thing to be able to pass and put pressure on Bush while registering his misgivings with a “present” vote. That’s at least somewhat logically defensible.

By contrast, Emerson seems to want to have things both ways and doesn’t have the courage to pick a side. Here’s an excerpt from a statement she put out tonight.

“I cannot abide by the way this war is being conducted, but neither can I lend my support to a measure that politicizes the men and women in uniform so bravely serving our country,” Emerson said in a statement.

She said she hopes Congress can eventually pass a “meaningful” spending bill that “will both send a message of severe urgency to the Iraqi government and a message of encouragement to our troops.”

There’s no need to buy into the White House spin that setting a timetable for withdrawal “politicizes the men and women in uniform,” and doing so merely shows Emerson’s fear of being smeared if she voted yes. I also don’t know what other way Emerson has in mind to send a “message of severe urgency to the Iraqi government.” If she has any suggestions on how to fix things over there, she should let us all know.

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