DOMENICI JUMPS SHIP….As recently as a few months ago, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) was just another part of Team GOP when it came to the war. He voted with the party to give Bush everything the White House wanted, he blasted Dems’ proposals, he refused to ask questions, and he spurned any efforts at administrative oversight. Domenici, like practically every other lawmaker with an “R” after his or her name, went so far as to say withdrawal timelines “encourage terrorists.”
The good news is, Domenici appears to have come around to embracing the Dems’ policy of a year-and-a-half ago. The bad news is, the depth of his commitment is still unclear.
At a press conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said he is “unwilling to continue our current strategy,” but he also he opposes “immediate withdrawal.” Domenici said the U.S. “cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely,” but he rejects funding cut offs. He now supports legislation that could allow for a drawdown of combat forces by March, but does not set a deadline.
For those keeping score at home, there are now two Republican senators (Hagel and Smith) who actually support the Dems’ policy, and four (Lugar, Voinovich, Warner, and Domenici) who have broken with the Bush policy and expressed support for some kind of draw-down in U.S. forces. Throw Snowe, Collins, Coleman, Sununu, and Specter into the mix and we might even get to double digits by August.
That said, the Speaker’s office is asking the right question.
Senator Warner’s benchmarks, Senator Lugar’s declaration, and the realization by Senators Domenici and Voinovich that a change is needed in Iraq demonstrate bipartisan support for an end to the war. Now the question is whether they will join in a bipartisan way in voting to change course in Iraq and to bring our troops home?
What we have here are scared Republicans who finally willing to break with the president and stop endorsing failure, but unwilling to cross the aisle. It’s incremental progress, I suppose, but a) Domenici and others will probably keep voting against Democratic proposals; and b) if it took these guys all this time to get to the where Dems were a year ago, there’s no telling how long it will take them to get to where Dems are now.
The momentum seems to be moving in the direction of progress, but momentum won’t mean much if Republicans’ votes don’t match their rhetoric.
And just as an aside, Domenici is up for re-election next year. Just thought I’d mention it.