Bob Novak has an extremely useful column this morning, noting (basically) that the Democrats do not have the votes to pass a 'revised authorization' of the Iraq operation. He also captures superbly what Democrats are trying to accomplish with this debate: wipe out a perceived 'original sin:'
Democratic senators face trouble this week trying to cleanse themselves of the stain of voting for President Bush's Iraq war resolution. Republican senators who have turned against the U.S. military intervention in Iraq are not interested in bailing out Democrats by approving their proposal to repeal the authorization overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 2002.
As Congress returns this week from the year's first recess, an amendment to repeal authorization is supposed to be attached to the bill containing homeland security recommendations by the Sept. 11 commission. But Sen. Norm Coleman, who has become prominent among Republican critics of Bush's war policy, told me from his home state of Minnesota that he would oppose deauthorization and predicted that no more than two Republican senators would vote for it.
One of those two Republican senators would have to be Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, who has fearlessly critiqued Bush's war policy. But Hagel told me that he is not inclined to support a repeal. If Hagel is lost, Democrats might fall short of the 50 votes necessary for final passage, much less the 60 necessary to close off debate. George W. Bush may be an unpopular president fighting an unpopular war, but Democrats are finding it hard to make war policy from Capitol Hill.
Democrats do not cloak the political nature of their efforts. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, participating in a Nevada forum for Democratic presidential candidates last week, exultantly announced to applause his intent to "revoke the president's authority that he was given . . . to go to war." The mantra is not limited to the presidential hopefuls from the Senate. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico also called for de-authorization...
In contrast, the proposed 2007 de-authorization looks like a Democratic effort to escape the wrath of the antiwar party faithful. Of the 29 Democrats who voted for the 2002 war resolution over four years ago, 21 are still in the Senate, seven are up for reelection next year and three -- Biden, Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton -- are running for president...
Hagel's position is critical. Before the recess, Biden and Levin sought support from the conservative who had been one of only two Republicans to back their tough nonbinding resolution. Hagel has long been appalled by Bush's war policy, but he is rightly suspicious of Democratic ploys that would have no impact on dire conditions in Iraq.
Democrats will eventually have to face a tough choice: try to withdraq funding, or give up.
I suspect that they will do this dance until the summer, when the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills will be moving through the Congressional process. With the benefit of a few months more consideration, they may find it easier to try to pull funding, which I suspect many of them will attempt to do. By that time, they will be able to argue either that the surge is well on its way to failure - or well on its way to success - either of which would be sufficient pretext to propose a forced drawdown of troop levels.
I suspect they will see this as a way to have their cake and eat it too.
Kudos by the way, to Chuck Hagel, whom I have criticized quite a bit lately.
Update: Read McQ and McQ at QandO as well. In the latter piece, he makes an excellent point about hypocrisy: Carl Levin calls for a dramatic troop drawdown in Iraq, but when pressed about how many, he says that should be left to the commanders in the field.