Iraq war vote again splits freshman Dems in House

The 41 freshman Democrats in the House again were split by an Iraq war vote last week, with 18 voting to continue funding the war and establishing benchmarks and 23 joining a majority of Democrats in voting against the legislation.

The result on Thursday largely mirrored a May 10 vote on a proposal by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) that would have withdrawn the troops from Iraq within nine months. Most of the McGovern bill supporters voted against Thursday’s supplemental.

Bucking the trend were four supporters of the McGovern bill who voted for the funding bill and one who voted against both.
Several of them felt the need to address their votes in detail on their websites.

Almost every freshman Democrat in a safe district voted against the supplemental, which passed 280-142, and for McGovern’s proposal, which failed 171-255.

Among those who faced close races in 2006 and figure to in 2008, a slight majority voted to continue funding the war.
Most of those voting to cut off funding came from the Northeast. But the group also included two Iowa freshmen — Reps. David Loebsack and Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster OPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP MORE — and Kentucky’s John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats see political winner in tax fight McConnell knocks Kentucky Democrat over support for nixing filibuster Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE.

Democrats overall voted 140-86 to cut off funding.

Republicans have sought to tar those who vote to cut off funding as unsupportive of the troops, and the votes could provide campaign fodder in the many competitive districts represented by the freshman Democrats. The GOP’s efforts to regain the majority in the House have centered on the freshmen.

In a shift, many Democrats with 2008 contests on deck, including presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCensus results show White House doubling down on failure Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE (Ill.), showed a willingness to take that risk or saw greater rewards in opposing the war.

The Democratic presidential candidates already have been getting hit by their GOP counterparts for an alleged failure to support the troops.

The tactic could have lost some of its effect this cycle, as GOPers in large numbers voted against a previous supplemental that contained a withdrawal deadline.

Liberal groups that oppose the war have been increasingly vocal in denouncing Democrats who continue to fund the war, targeting members including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and creating pressure from both sides.

Rep. Ron Klein, whose Florida district was held by Republican Rep. Clay Shaw Jr. for 26 years, said he was representing his district’s “values and priorities” with the vote to cut off funding.

“Without a real plan for accountability in Iraq, there is no telling how long this war will continue,” Klein said. “We were elected to help bring a new direction in Iraq, and I will continue that fight.”

While most supporters of McGovern’s proposal voted to cut off funding, and vice versa, there were a few exceptions.
Four who voted for McGovern’s proposal to end the war — Reps. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAustin tight lipped on whether to take sexual assault cases out of commanders' hands Gillibrand touts legislation to lower drug costs: This idea 'is deeply bipartisan' A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces MORE (N.Y.), Steve Kagen (Wis.), Joe Sestak (Pa.) and Tim Walz (Minn.) — went on to vote to continue funding it on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jerry McNerney (Calif.), who recently drew his first big-name challenger and is a top target in a Republican-leaning district, was the only Democratic freshman to vote against both the McGovern proposal and the supplemental.

Kagen posted a heartfelt, at times angry letter to his website describing his reasoning on the vote and suggesting that Bush and his administration should resign over their conduct.

“Yes, today I voted to support our troops, but not this failed policy,” Kagen said. “I did what was best for your children, your friends, your neighbors and my patients,” added the doctor.

“Both [Bush] and his administration seem determined to sign the death warrants of untold numbers of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.”

Walz’s resignation and reluctance to vote for the supplemental after voting to end the war were clear from his statement.
“I believe that if Congress rejects the funding proposal, President Bush will leave our soldiers in Iraq regardless of whether they have the resources necessary for their safety,” said Walz, an Army National Guard veteran. “I understand the consequences of cutting budgets for troops in the field, and I cannot allow that to happen.”

Sestak, also a veteran, tried to cast the bill as an important step forward. Sestak long has advocated setting a date for ending the war.

After posting one statement last week, he expanded on the vote Sunday on his site.

“I cannot vote to have these service members’ safety be caught between us and someone we hope will blink — for hope is not a strategy,” Sestak said, adding that he hoped the bill would lead the two sides to “come together.”

McNerney voted against Thursday’s bill because he wants enforceable benchmarks and diplomacy requirements. He voted against the McGovern proposal because it didn’t contain the latter or veterans’ healthcare funding.

“Supporting our troops means providing our men and women in uniform all of the means necessary to carry out their mission and bring a responsible close to the conflict in Iraq,” McNerney said.

Republicans noted that many of the Democratic freshmen had unblemished records of voting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) until the war votes and also that last week the GOP began a communications offensive linking them to Pelosi, who represents San Francisco.

They are also keying individually on McNerney’s vote to cut off funding.

“Every member of the [Democratic] leadership except Nancy Pelosi voted for this bill, so I guess that would explain McNerney’s vote to cut off funding for the troops,” a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Ken Spain, said. “If you look at McNerney’s voting record, you would think he and Pelosi were partners in representing the people of San Francisco. Good thing for us he isn’t.”

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Doug Thornell, said the votes show Democrats’ independence.

“Unlike House Republicans, who would follow Bush off a cliff, Democratic members vote their conscience with their districts’ best interests in mind,” Thornell said.