February 14, 2007

Nonbinding Resolutions

The Republicans have been critical of Democratic efforts to pass nonbinding resolutions opposing the latest tactical move in Iraq by the President. The argument that, if the Democrats really had the courage of their convictions, they would limit funding for the war or force a drawdown in troop levels certainly has merit. The Democrats likely don’t have the votes for such a move, however, and they surely could not pass the necessary legislation over a presidential veto. Unsatisfactory though it may be, a nonbinding resolution is about the only way the Democrats in Congress can express their displeasure in an official way with President Bush’s latest plan.

I don’t think that a nonbinding resolution of disapproval is, as the Republicans assert, a meaningless gesture. It is surely a gesture, of course, and not a powerful one. As I said, the Democrats are doing what they can. They have majorities in both the Senate and the House, but to say that they control Congress overstates their position. I suspect that their major accomplishments for the rest of the 110th Congress will be seen in what the Republicans are unable to do, rather than in what the Democrats actually do.

What a nonbinding resolution of disapproval accomplishes is to put the President, his administration, and, to a degree, his party on notice that many citizens—perhaps even a majority of them—believe his latest Iraq policy to be wrongheaded. President Bush has made it quite clear that he has no interest in the opinions of legislators, but, when this policy fails, as it likely will, he will be unable to say, as he did about the measure authorizing military action in Iraq in the first place, “You voted for it.” Instead, the Democrats will be able to say, “We told you so.” The gesture may not avoid national tragedy, but it will make it clear which political party should be entrusted with the authority to help the nation recover from it.

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