Harry Reid\’s Power
Mr. Reid will continue to fund the Iraq war. Period. He said so emphatically
last night on \”Charlie Rose.\” Of course, he did give a verbal nod
to senators wanting to \”look\” at the funding issue, but he said the
Senate will continue the \”tradition\” of funding war. Simply stated, Harry Reid will not be the first majority leader in U.S. Senate history to break with that \”tradition.\” Constitutional checks and balances
on a runaway commander in chief mean nothing to the senator. So on the war
will rage until Mr. Bush decides to end it. That is our fate as it stands today.
It is condemning our country and our troops to a certain hell, with the U.S. Armed Forces and the National Guard breaking apart at the seams. So be it.
But last night Mr. Reid sealed the deal in his refusal to act only through the \”process\” of legislation on the war. It makes him responsible for the war, because he is willingly allowing it to continue. It\’s called complicity, because by his very inaction he is choosing. Sweet words of calm delivery and his soothing cadence cannot hide this fact. Unfortunately, he has also doomed Democrats on Iraq, because the American people have spoken and the House can\’t do anything without
him. The truth is that Reid isn\’t a war time political consiglieri. He\’s a bipartisan deal maker and Mr. Bush knows it.
Watching Harry Reid last night was one of the most frustrating experiences
I\’ve had lately. He stressed his \”slim majority\” and the importance
of doing more bipartisanship work. Fine, but the most important issue we have is the Iraq war, so the only bipartisanship will be the soldiers of both parties dying in the desert in Iraq.
When Reid flatly stated funding for the Iraq war is not on the table he used Vietnam as an example. Funding was never cut for Vietnam, which is true (it happened in the
of 1973, after troops were out), but he forgets to mention the differences in these wars, because we\’re not talking about southeast Asia.
We\’re talking about a war we now know was based on faulty intelligence that long ago lost its mission. Reid is not moved, because cutting funds even for a bad war is not how he wants to be remembered.
Blaming the war on Bush, Reid said there \”is not one magic bullet\”
the Senate can use to stop the war. There\’s not \”any one thing the Senate
can do\” to end it. He mentioned two or three times that he had
one senator sick, sitting forward on his chair, close to Charlie Rose, saying again he has such a slim majority. Mr. Reid wants desperately to convince us all that he has no real power, but it looks to me he\’s trying to convince himself, obsolve himself of this horrible mistake.
Harry Reid says Bush will have to change
course on Iraq. Then in the same breath says Bush will have his surge because
Reid nor the Senate can do anything to stop him. But then reiterates that he wants to do what\’s right on Iraq and what\’s
right for the Senate. It\’s hard to do that by ignoring the American people.
Reid has the power. The Constitution is clear. Reid simply
doesn\’t have the will. That\’s clear as well.
There is little dispute that Congress could, if it had the political will,
end the war in Iraq tomorrow by using its power over appropriations to cut
off funds to the troops. “Congress could easily check the president,”
says W. Taylor Reveley III, the dean of William and Mary School of Law and
author of “War Powers of the President and Congress.”
“If Iraq continues to go badly or if it looks like the president might
actually use force in Iran, I can easily see Congress passing something like
or Vietnam spending cutoffs, which would force the setting of a timetable
for withdrawal that was pretty brisk,” he said.
If Congress used its appropriations power in this way, even the most vigorous
defenders of executive power agree, President Bush would have to acquiesce.
“He would have to comply, and he would comply,” says John Yoo,
the University of California at Berkeley law professor who, as a Bush administration
official, defended the president’s authority to act unilaterally. According
to Professor Yoo, Congress could immediately cut funds, or could order a phased
withdrawal by authorizing a fixed amount of money each month for specified
numbers of troops.
“The idea that the funding tool is too blunt is a view held by people
who have never worked in Congress,” he says. “It can be a scalpel
as well as a baseball bat.”
The problem is not that Congress lacks the constitutional power to cut off
funds, but that it may lack the political will to do so. … ..
Reid also admitted to not being a Lyndon Johnson type of politician. But
sometimes, when you\’re in a dog fight and you\’re getting torn apart, as our
soldiers and military infrastructure are in Iraq and because of the war, that\’s exactly the type of politician
you need in charge. Unfortunately for Democrats, America and our troops, it\’s not who we\’ve got; not in the White House or in the Senate.
I\’d like to believe that Mr. Reid will surprise me and do something in the shorter term, using his powers to force a change in course in Iraq. Instead, Reid looks likely to wait for it to happen, watching the situation grind down until it becomes political torture for Bush to continue his current course. I\’ve got the feeling Mr. Reid is going to let Bush ride this out until he
owns it fully, then Reid thinks he can actually claim credit for Democrats for wearing the president
down in the end. That will be fine for him to tell his friends and his family. They can write about it in Senate history; how Harry Reid kept the \”tradition\” of war funding. But it won\’t be because the Constitution didn\’t give him another choice. Harry Reid is abdicating his power to the president by simply waiting him out. It may be a plan, but you sure can\’t call it leadership.