Democrats’ Resolution on Iraq Reaches Senate Floor


Richard Moore

        By raising legal concerns about Congress setting timetables
        for a withdrawal, experts said, the White House has raised
        the possibility that it could try to check Congress not by
        vetoing the Iraq funding bill, should it contain restrictive
        language, but by declining to enforce what it deems

Congress did not declare war on Iraq, so who is the one being unconstitutional? 
Where is the Supreme Court when you need it?


Original source URL:

Democrats' Resolution on Iraq Reaches Senate Floor
By Shailagh Murray and Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 15, 2007; A05

After weeks of delay, Democratic leaders yesterday managed to bring to the 
Senate floor for the first time a binding resolution that would bring U.S. 
troops home from Iraq. But Republicans remained confident that they could kill 
the proposal, and the White House threatened a veto, raising constitutional 

Democrats want the new proposal to supersede the 2002 resolution that authorized
the Iraq invasion. It would restrict troop movements and set March 31, 2008, as 
a target date for bringing the troops home.

Republicans had blocked previous efforts on new war resolutions, using 
parliamentary maneuvers. But they allowed the latest version to inch forward, 
confident that they could still kill the proposal. A final resolution could come
later this week, and Democrats acknowledged that it is unlikely to become law. 
Still, war opponents urged support for the resolution, declaring that the public
no longer wants U.S. troops in Iraq and that last November's elections showed 
that voters wanted Democrats to end the conflict.

"Congress authorized this war, and it is in our power to bring it to a close," 
said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a leading war opponent and supporter of the
resolution. "More importantly, we have not just the power but the responsibility
to end a war that is draining vital national security resources in pursuit of a 
goal that cannot be achieved militarily."

The House Appropriations Committee will begin consideration today of a $125 
billion war funding bill that includes deadlines for bringing the troops home. 
The White House has threatened to veto that proposal, too, and administration 
officials said they have constitutional concerns with that legislation.

Yesterday's threat from the administration on the Senate's proposal was another 
sign of how the White House is ratcheting up the pressure on Congress not to 
adopt language that would restrict the president's flexibility to conduct the 
war as he sees fit.

The resolution "infringes upon the constitutional authority of the President as 
Commander in Chief by imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw U.S. troops 
from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of 
defeat," the White House statement said. "The legislation would hobble American 
commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective
of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself
and be an ally in the war on terror."

The Senate resolution would require a "prompt transition" of the Iraq mission, 
from the current full-scale engagement to three specific activities: protecting 
U.S. infrastructure and personnel; training and equipping Iraqi forces; and 
conducting "targeted counter-terrorism operations." The resolution would require
a phased redeployment of troops to begin within 120 days of enactment, with the 
goal of sending home all U.S. combat forces by next March.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), who is 
seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said the 2002 authorization
is no longer relevant because it gave Bush the authority to destroy Iraq's 
weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein -- 
neither of which remains a matter of concern. "If you want to be literal about 
it, this mission no longer has the force of law," he said.

Republicans contend that Congress has no authority to dictate war policy, and 
that Democrats are overreaching, possibly dangerously, by attempting to limit 
Bush's options. "This is the memo that our enemies have been waiting for," said 
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

"They would not declare war, nor end it, as the Constitution provides, but 
micromanage it," said Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a candidate for the 2008 
Republican presidential nomination and a staunch war defender. "I've heard some 
argue that Iraq is already a catastrophe, and we need to get our soldiers out of
the way of its consequences. To my colleagues who believe this, I say, you have 
no idea how much worse things could get."

Administration officials said, if adopted, the Senate resolution would 
essentially make Congress a "co-commander in chief," a competing source of 
judgments on how to conduct the war. "The Constitution commits the exclusive 
power to the president as commander in chief to make the decisions necessary to 
conduct the war," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "This resolution 
unconstitutionally intrudes on that authority by attempting to direct strategic 
and tactical decisions."

The veto threat served as the latest White House warning to Democrats on the 
perils of adopting language that would restrict the president's flexibility in 
Iraq, and it underscored how the debate could eventually escalate into a 
constitutional clash between Bush and Congress. Until yesterday, the White House
avoided raising specific legal objections to the Democrats' Iraq proposals out 
of an apparent desire not to antagonize its legislative opponents.

By raising legal concerns about Congress setting timetables for a withdrawal, 
experts said, the White House has raised the possibility that it could try to 
check Congress not by vetoing the Iraq funding bill, should it contain 
restrictive language, but by declining to enforce what it deems 

The administration has generated controversy in legal circles with its frequent 
use of signing statements with legislation -- in which the president signs the 
legislation but indicates that he will not consider himself bound by certain 
objectionable language. Experts on both the right and the left said they think 
that this is an option the White House is considering taking if the President is
sent an Iraq spending bill containing language that he believes infringes on his
powers as commander in chief.

"I think that they are preserving that option," said Scott Lilly, a former top 
Democratic aide on the House Appropriations Committee who is now a senior fellow
at the Center for American Progress. Lilly has conducted for current House 
Appropriations aides extensive briefings on constitutional matters pertaining to
war spending.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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