Democrats move to Plan B on Iraq

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a Washington, D.C. press conference on Iraqi troop pull-out, March 8 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: Congressional Democrats have moved on to Plan B in their attempt to stop the war in Iraq. The majority party's been unable to agree on exactly how it wants to get that done.Plan A was to cut off the funding. But that's proved politically difficult, so they unveiled their latest idea today — a series of deadlines to be attached to the president's emergency budget request. Marketplace's Hillary Wicai reports.


HILLARY WICAI: The Democrats will up the $100 billion in war funding, including more money for Afghanistan, veterans' care and health care for low-income children. But there's a catch: if the president can't show progress on a series of benchmarks for the Iraqi government by July 1st, withdrawal of troops begins. If by October 1st the president can't certify the benchmarks have been completed, withdrawal begins then.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was clear who set the standards.

NANCY PELOSI: These are President Bush's benchmarks.

Even if the goals are reached, U.S. combat troops would have to begin withdrawing a year from now.

Military analyst John Pike says the benchmarks start with improving security.

JOHN PIKE: Diminution of violence against civilians. Greater participation by Iraqi security forces in the defense of their own country. And they would have to be looking at getting this oil revenue distribution plan in place.

Some wonder if these are the right benchmarks.

Michael O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution.

MICHAEL O'HANLON: Do we know enough about counter-insurgency to write a formula that we can predict will be the correct one?

And how will these goals be measured?

GORDON ADAMS: It's always going to be subject to interpretation.

Gordon Adams is with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He says Democrats are following what they think the public wants.

ADAMS: Of course, they're attaching it to an appropriations bill and the bet they're making is the administration will sign off on its own benchmarks attached to an appropriations bill.

Don't bet too much. The White House has said it'll veto the bill.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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