Can the Democrats actually stop the war?

Let’s pause to think about the idea of the Democratic-controlled Congress ending the war in Iraq.

I was thinking about a particularly difficult piece of rhetoric in the debate. It’s been bugging me since the recent spending showdown over timelines.

To consider a June 1 piece appearing at

Summing up the media’s conventional wisdom about the congressional vote to approve funding for the Iraq War with no timeline for withdrawal, the Los Angeles Times wrote on May 25: “Unable to overcome the president’s veto of their plan to set a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops, Democrats have been left to focus on what to do next.”

That, in a nutshell, is what was wrong with the coverage of the war funding debate. In fact, if the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, it didn’t have to pass the bill over Bush’s veto—it just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming. Given that the Constitution requires Congress to approve all spending, Bush needs Congress’s approval to continue the war—Congress does not need Bush’s approval to end the war.

The FAIR piece is intended to criticize the media for flunking on its coverage of the war funding dispute. And the proposal it puts forward sounds reasonable enough, except that it raises a hideous spectre that few, if any, people seem to notice.

Okay, we’ll go with few. I can’t possibly be the only person who has thought of this. Then again, I could also be wrong, but work with me here.

The problem is HJR 114, which was passed by Congress in October, 2002 and signed into law by President Bush four days later. HJR 114 is better known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002”.

The Democrats can certainly make a stand and refuse to send any further funding bills for the war to the White House, but this does nothing about HJR 114.

Removing the funding while leaving Bush the authority to conduct the war creates a dangerous political situation. Does the White House have the audacity to keep the troops in the field even after Congress refuses funding? Is this a gamble worth taking?

In raw terms, perhaps. But Democrats are politicians as much as Republicans, and whether or not they would risk the appearance of abandoning the troops in the field is not exactly a question mark. No. Of course they wouldn’t.

Which means that in addition to refusing to pass any further war spending bills, Congressional Democrats must also repeal HJR 114.

Earlier this month, an attempt to initiate a phased redeployment from Iraq died in the Senate when the Democrats failed to achieve cloture. The vote was 52-47. Can we expect any better outcome for an attempt to repeal HJR 114?

Even presuming such a bill could pass both the House and Senate, what will happen when the bill goes to the President to sign?

In order to override the veto, the Democratic caucus would need to attract sixteen GOP votes in the Senate. The House would need 68 GOP votes.

What, realistically, are the odds of that happening?

Anyone? Anyone?


2 thoughts on “Can the Democrats actually stop the war?

  1. I still think our saviour will have to be the Iraqis. They need to tell us to leave. That will be the only way a pullout can play well politically here at home.

  2. I don’t think you’re wrong in that. Indeed, we need to be told when to leave. I just hope it doesn’t get like the old Belushi sketch on Saturday Night Live about the guest who would not leave. Let’s just hope this situation doesn’t end with a fatal overdose.

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