Is this week’s Iraq debate meaningless?


The Republicans are spending a lot of time this week screaming two contradictory messages at the Democrats.  They say that the resolution and the debate this week is a meaningless exercise.  Yet they also say that the debate sends a monumental signal to the world, demoralizes the troops and gives comfort to our enemies.  Which is it meaningless or significant?

A non-binding House resolution.  Does America really know what that is?  A “House resolution” is a common thing for Congress to consider and vote on when there is no actual legislation to pass.  It is intended to put Members of Congress on record for their views.  And importantly, it is often used as kind of a threat for future legislation.  It is a stance on issues that can be solved without legislation.  For instance, calling on the Post Office to issue a stamp or on China to open up trade barriers. 

Calling on the president to change course in Iraq by disapproving of his decision to add more troops is a good use for a resolution.  The president is the commander in chief.  He moves our brave troops around the world.  When Congress makes a suggestion as weighty as this one, it expects the president to at least listen.  This week he has announced that he won’t even give them that courtesy.

The next step when the party to whom it is directed ignores a resolution is for Congress to up the ante.  Democrats don’t have to withdraw funds that support the troops in order to use more force to control the Pentagon’s purse strings.  There are plenty of operations and administrative functions that can be re-shaped with legislation.  And investment and re-building funds can be conditioned on demonstrated progress in bringing this war to an end. 

Republicans are using scare tactics by saying that any change in funding takes money away from the troops, but they and the Congressional leadership know better.  More funding pressure will happen soon and it will receive the support of a majority of the American people.  The Democrats are taking the right steps.  Let the people know where they stand.  Give the White House the chance to change course and when they don’t, take the next step.

Is this week's Iraq debate meaningless?