Thursday, March 1, 2007

Pelosi & Murtha Plan Slow Bleed / Vote Buying Strategy

What does funding domestic farm programs and children's health insurance have to do with a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war in Iraq? Well, nothing, at least unless you are Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha. Despite clear objections, the two have now devised a strategy to implement their slow bleed strategy -- by attaching billions in earmarks for various pet projects designed to buy the votes of other democratic, and possibly even republican, lawmakers

House Democratic leaders will add nearly $4 billion for farmers to a bill funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to attract conservative Democrats concerned that the measure would wrongly constrict President Bush’s power as commander in chief.

Democrats may also add money for children’s health insurance in the hope of winning the votes of Republicans . . .

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a senior member of the Blue Dog Coalition of some 45 conservative Democrats, said, “I don’t think the supplemental will pass if we don’t” add disaster-relief funds. Without farm-relief funds the Iraq-Afghanistan bill would lose “quite a few” Blue Dog votes, said Peterson. “They’d lose mine,” he added.
. . . .
A lawmaker who attended a meeting of Blue Dogs Tuesday said half of the conservative Democrats who were there raised concerns about language that Defense Appropriations subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) said he would include in the supplemental.

Murtha said he would include several requirements: giving soldiers returning from the war at least a year of rest before redeployment; limiting the Pentagon’s ability to extend enlistments, the so-called stop-loss policy; and stopping the Pentagon from extending combat tours. Murtha also said his bill would enforce equipment and training standards for troops.

Conservative Democrats met before the whole House Democratic Caucus convened to discuss war funding. Lawmakers at the second meeting failed to reach agreement because liberal lawmakers demanded that strict conditions be attached to funding while conservatives argued against interfering with Bush’s powers of command.

“I don’t think we should be interfering with military strategy,” said Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a leading Blue Dog, when asked about Murtha’s proposed restrictions.
. . . .
If Republican members of the Appropriations Committee and a significant number of Blue Dogs oppose the bill, it may not pass the House, seriously embarrassing the Democratic leadership.

Additional agriculture spending could make it harder for conservative Democrats from rural districts to oppose the war-funding bill. Murtha and Peterson said farm-relief funds would be added.

Peterson cited $4 billion to pay for disasters such as droughts, floods, frosts and snowstorms that affected farmers in about half of all states in 2005 and 2006. In California, farmers lost four-fifths of their orange crop to frost, he said. But farmers could only apply for relief for one of the two years, he added.

Murtha said Blue Dogs have not told him directly of their concerns, but extra agriculture funds could keep them from defecting. Another senior Democrat on Appropriations agreed that “it would help.”

Murtha said he and Young reached agreement on military funding levels. The supplemental would include at least $93.7 billion for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Appropriators may grant requests to allocate an extra billion for Afghanistan, which would boost the defense total to $94.7 billion, he added.

Read the whole story here. This looks like an atrocity in the making. It is more then a little sickening that the single most important issue of our time -- our national security during time of war -- should be decided not on the merits but rather on pay offs for legislative pet projects. One would think that this topic would transcend log rolling. But I guess one would be wrong.

If you agree that the Pelosi/Murtha Vote Buying is wrong and that the issue of the Iraq War should be debated alone on its merits, please contact your representative and tell them so. You can find your representative here.

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