Don’t just do something

Over the weeks since the Democrats took control of Congress in January, they have used a variety of measures to pressure George Bush into de-escalating the war and eventually ending it—non-binding resolutions, war funding bills with conditions attached, proposals to censure Bush.

In some scholarly circles, among columnists and on the blogosphere, there is another option that is gaining increasing attention—doing nothing.

Up to now, Democrats have kept voting for measures that require Bush’s signature in an effort to place limits on the war. But critics point out if Congress were to stop passing funding bills at all and simply wait for funding to dry up, Bush would be forced to make a funding request to Congress, and then lawmakers could force him to deal with them as more equal partners in war policy.

The power at issue is Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress sole power to pay for wars—"to declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water … To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years … To provide and maintain a Navy … To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces …”

Such a strategy of waiting out Bush might face one big obstacle—Senate Democratic floor leader Harry Reid.

Reid lives in terror that his party will be perceived as weak on security. In 2005, he gave a green light to “Real ID,” the law that lets the federal government impose driver license requirements on states, because it was attached to a troop funding bill. He was unwilling to let Democrats block the measure for fear of being seen as soft on the war.

“We have danced this tune before,” Reid said in July 2005. “[W]e felt that the homeland security bill as written was wrong, we needed some improvements in it, we held that bill up for some time. As a result of that, because we wanted perfection rather than good, we ended up losing Max Cleland and a number of other senators.”

It appears the only time Reid has mentioned Article 1, Section 8 was on July 11 during discussion of Sen. James Webb’s amendment requiring more down time for units between tours in the war zone. “Some have tried to confuse this issue by calling it an infringement of presidential authority,” Reid said. “This is simply false. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress to ‘make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.'”