ENDING THE WAR….Can Democrats force President Bush to begin a withdrawal of troops from Iraq? The short answer is that — constitutional questions aside — any resolution mandating specific troop deployments out of Iraq would require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and 67 votes to overcome a veto. That’s obviously not going to happen. So Markos Moulitsas, echoing others, endorses Chris Dodd’s approach:

What was clear to me before, and what should be abundantly clear to my colleagues after today, is that this President is not going to change course unless we force him to. There is only one way to do that — we must set a clear, hard and fast deadline for redeployment and, in order to enforce it, that deadline must be tied to funding.

This sounds more plausible since budget reconciliations can pass with a simple majority and Bush can’t veto Pentagon funding forever. Unfortunately, there’s a problem: Democrats don’t have a simple majority. There are 49 Democrats in the Senate, and if you assume Bernie Sanders would join in, you’re up to 50.

That’s not enough. The only way to defund the war is for the Democratic leadership in the Senate to maintain absolute, 100% iron control over its own caucus and get at least one Republican to join them. But while there are a handful of Republicans who have been critical of the war, I can’t think of even a single one who’d come within a country mile of voting to defund it. Can you?

So what’s Plan B?

UPDATE: In comments, there seems to be some widespread misunderstanding about how budget bills work. Long story short, you can’t filibuster them, so 40 votes won’t stop anything.

And remember, we’re not talking about an emergency supplemental here. We’re talking about the FY 2008 budget for the entire Pentagon. Basically, Democrats have two choices: (a) muster the votes for a bill that funds the Pentagon but defunds the war and then dare Bush to veto it, or (b) refuse to pass anything, which effectively defunds the Pentagon completely without even forcing Bush to risk a veto. Option A is what we did earlier this year, and its success depends on whether we can keep our own caucus together and find a Republican senator or two to side with us for several votes in a row. Pretty unlikely. Option B is electoral suicide.

I’m all for trying Option A, but it makes Dems look weak and whiny to introduce bills and then have them fail, which is almost certainly what would happen. Is that what we want? And what comes next after that?