So what did the Senate Democrats win yesterday? One could argue that the Republicans finally allowed the Democrats to lay claim to some ownership of the Iraq issue. But Democratic ownership, of course, will be short-lived since Bush plans to veto the bill because it includes a specific withdrawal date. Politically, a Bush veto may be the best thing for Democrats since they can tell voters that they tried to get the troops out of the unpopular war -- but that the president and his party wouldn't allow it.
Per NBC's John Yang, President Bush is slated to address the National Cattlemen's Beef Association later this morning. The White House has released excerpts dealing with yesterday's Senate vote. "The bottom line is this: the House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders, and an artificial timetable for withdrawal," Bush is expected to say." As I have made clear for weeks, if either version comes to my desk, I will veto it. And it is also clear from the strong opposition in both houses that my veto would be sustained. Yet Congress continues to pursue these bills - and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements … start providing vital funds for our troops … and get a bill to my desk that I can sign into law."
More Bush: "Some Democrats believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely. That's not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible."
Both WH '08 and SEN '08 politics seemed to influence yesterday's final vote count. The two Republicans to side with the Democrats were Chuck Hagel (who continues to mull a possible White House run) and Gordon Smith (who is up for re-election in '08 in the blue state of Oregon). As we mentioned yesterday, the DSCC released its own poll showing Rep. Pete DeFazio (D) narrowly leading Smith in a possible match up. The two Democrats to side with the GOP were Joe Lieberman (of course) and Mark Pryor (the Arkansas Democrat who is up for re-election next year; Some Arkansas Democrats are nervous about running statewide in 2008 if someone is perceived to be too liberal is leading the national ticket).
The Los Angeles Times says the overall Senate emergency spending bill, with its withdrawal deadlines and all, is poised to pass as soon as today.
As for the ramifications in the presidential race, Giuliani showed that there would be little difference between his stance on the issue and McCain's. "I can't imagine in the history of war anybody announcing a timetable to run out and retreat," he said at a fundraiser yesterday. "I think it's a terrible mistake. To put up the white flag and announce a timetable for retreat seems like a very bad strategy to me." He added that he hopes Bush vetoes the bill.
Also of note, Americans United, the coalition of liberal groups which helped defeat Bush during the Social Security battles of 2005, is going up with a $200,000 ad buy in Kentucky targeting Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell on Iraq. The ad juxtaposes clips of McConnell offering optimistic assessments about the war with scenes of chaos in Iraq. "Tell Mitch McConnell: Stop blocking change in Iraq," the ad concludes. McConnell is up for re-election in 2008 and is likely to become a favorite target of the liberal netroots.