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President Bush reportedly isn't thrilled about the House Democrats' plan for a new Iraq funding supplemental. The plan would immediately make available about half of the $95.5 billion Bush requested from Congress. The other half would be contingent upon the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, with a subsequent Congressional vote on the second half of the funding in July.
The plan is too clever by half. It's unlikely Democrats can muster the votes to quash a veto by July, whether the inept Iraqi government meets a set of arbitrary benchmarks or not. So this plan merely forces Democrats to vote twice for continuing to fund the war—Bush will have won two times over.
The smarter play is to wait for September. Because if you're a Democrat in Congress, four realities are undeniable. First, nearly six in 10 Americans now support setting a timetable for withdrawal. Second, you were elected in 2006 on a platform of bringing the troops home. Third, your base wants an immediate end to the war. Fourth, there's an election in 18 months. So the last thing you want to do is vote every couple of months to continue providing funds for the war in Iraq. That's exactly what you promised the American people you wouldn't do.
Come September or October, when Gen. David Petraeus reports back on the progress of the surge (and the defense authorization bill is floating around), Republicans in Congress will be getting extremely nervous that Petraeus will ask for more time, as Blake pointed out last week and House GOP moderates pointed out to Bush yesterday in a heated meeting. If you're a centrist Republican like Olympia Snowe, John Warner, Dick Lugar, or George Voinovich, you have to start thinking seriously about joining Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith in supporting a timeline for withdrawal by fall. The same timeline language that passed the Senate with 51 votes on April 26 could probably pass the Senate with as many as 60 votes in October.
There will be plenty of opportunities to stick it to Bush in the months ahead. So the Democrats ought to relax. Time is on their side.