House Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, drew a line in the sand today by proposing two separate Iraq exit strategies. As written, they stand little chance of passing, but at least it's a refreshing departure from "staying the course." In predictable fashion, the White House threatened a veto -- c'mon, you know the Unitary Executive can't be hampered by the pesky Congress.
Do you think this will stop the GOP from claiming Democrats have no plan? Me neither.
As a timetable, it could hardly be clearer: Show progress in Iraq by July or begin withdrawing US troops. Meet your goals by October or start bringing the troops home. No matter what, all troops are out by August 2008.
By drawing their line in the sand, House Democratic leaders are trying to ratchet up pressure on the White House to change its Iraq strategy while trying to persuade Americans that there is another way forward on the war on terror. That direction, they say, involves intensifying the fight in Afghanistan while winding down involvement in Iraq.
As a practical matter, the legislation stands slim chance of passage as written. Antiwar House Democrats haven't yet signed on, and House Republican leaders condemned it. But as a gauge of America's war weariness, it may serve as a sounding board for a citizenry eager for solutions to a conflict that has proved frustratingly complex.
"We have to ... take the conversation to the American people and, hopefully, [President Bush] will hear them," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in announcing the plan Thursday on Capitol Hill.
After weeks of intense discussion within a deeply divided caucus, House Democratic leaders released their multifaceted funding plan. It adds $4 billion to Mr. Bush's $95.5 billion request for the Defense Department, including significant increases for military readiness and healthcare and housing for returning troops.
It also requires the president to certify that "benchmarks of accountability" for the Iraqi government are met and that US forces are not sent into combat without meeting the military's own basic guidelines for unit readiness, including a year at home before redeployment to Iraq.