Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/6/09-Afghanistan Roundtable

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike, where we discuss the day in politics. Let's get right to it.

AFGHANISTAN: The President today hosted a meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Over 30 members from both chambers and both parties joined the President at the White House. 18 people gave their input directly to the President. Apparently one of the most tense moments came when Senator John McCain, Obama's old opponent, said that Obama shouldn't be making a decision so "leisurely." Obama apparently took exception to that characterization and shot back at McCain that he was not being "leisurely" at all. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that exchange.

Overall, no policy announcements came from the meeting. My sense is that it was mostly a chance for members of Congress to voice their opinions/grievances before the President announces a new path forward. I'm worried that this issue is beginning to follow the same old political patterns. Conservatives have used the occasion to reestablish their hawkishness. Not wanting to be out-hawked, some centrist-minded Democrats have been similarly enthusiastic about sending troops. Besides these political dynamics, the President faces another obstacle. Unlike President Bush, who appointed yes-men Generals who shared his ideology, President Obama is dealing with some Generals, like McChrystal, who are clearly more hawkish than he is. By recommending more troops, McChrystal has forced Obama to either do something he (I think) does not want to do, or face charges that he is defying his Generals. Within the confines of these dilemmas, I think it was wise for the President to consult the people who control the purse strings.

THE SENATE: The Senate had a productive day for once, finishing up consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill. The Senate has now passed 7 of the 12 appropriations bills. They'll try (but probably not succeed) to finish the rest of them by the end of the month. They also still have to agree to appropriations conference reports that have cleared the House.

The Defense bill passed by a vote of 93-7.

Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate voted on 8 amendments. I'll spare you the pain of going through the amendments one by one. Three of them struck specific earmarks from the bill. Two of the amendments, each offered by Senator Coburn (R-OK) would redirect money in the bill away from "maintenance" and toward combat training. The best amendment, offered by Senator Franken, placed restrictions on funding to military contracting companies KBR and Halliburton, by requiring that no money be given to them if the contractor requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims. The amendment passed by a vote of 68-30. All Democrats voted for it, as did Republicans Bennett (UT), Collins (ME), Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Hutchison (TX), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH).

Tomorrow the Senate moves on to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, and any available conference reports.

THE HOUSE: The House actually took a couple of significant votes on a Tuesday, for once. At issue is the conference report on the Defense Authorization bill, which sets policy guidelines for the Pentagon. Democrats attached the Mathew Shepard Act as a policy-rider to this bill. The Shepard act classifies crimes committed due to one's sexual orientation as hate crimes. It has long been a Democratic-priority, and they thought that they would be better able to get it into law if they hid it in a large defense policy bill. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) proposed a motion to instruct conferees, a non-binding recommendation that the Shepard act be stripped from the bill in conference. Thankfully, the motion failed by a vote of 178-234. 22 Blue Dog Democrats voted no, and 9 Republicans voted yes. I expect that the Shepard Act will be in the conference report that comes before the House later this week.

The House also voted on a suspension bill. It will consider several more tomorrow.

That's it for us, and for once, we didn't say a word about health care! Hope you enjoyed it!

No comments:

Post a Comment