It took nearly four months, but the White House and congressional Democrats finally got the showdown they wanted -- and have ended up just where they started. House Democrats will try and fail to override President Bush's veto of the war funding bill this morning, and congressional leaders will meet with the president at the White House at 2:25 pm ET to discuss the next step.
Behind the standoff is the political reality of a polarized country -- and the parties' bases are pushing the executive and legislative branches in opposite directions. That's why both the president and Democratic leaders were so eager to grab photo-ops yesterday, conveying very different messages. Don't expect an agreement out of today's meeting; both sides know there's no constituency for compromise.
When the posturing ends, though, Republicans are in a position to drive the debate. The simple reason: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid know they're nowhere close to being able to override a veto on the war. They may draw closer if, as Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) wants, the president has to come back for more money every few months. But the Democrats will still need to move toward the Republican position, unless they want to shut down war funding. "I think the Democrats are in a box," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, told the Associated Press' Charles Babington. LINK
Still, if everybody knows it's going to work out, nobody is quite sure how it will happen. Democrats can't give in too much without alienating liberals who want a quick end to the war. Republicans are standing with the president for now, but signs of discord in the GOP ranks are emerging. There could be "major defections by this fall" if the situation in Iraq doesn't improve, David Rogers reports in The Wall Street Journal. LINK
Pressure is building on Democrats from the 2008 field. Former senator John Edwards (D-NC), who is airing an anti-war ad in the Washington, DC media market, told ABC's Jake Tapper in a podcast recorded yesterday that he will push Congress to keep sending the president bills calling for troop withdrawals until he signs one. "This president is completely convinced that the Congress will back down. And they can't do that," Edwards said. (He also reveals that he is now getting $12 haircuts.) LINK
Another 2008 candidate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), added to the partisan acrimony with his recent comment about how Congress plans to handle its confrontation with the president over the war bill: "We're going to shove it down his throat." LINK
But this could be one of those YouTube sensations that the candidate embraces -- like Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) unique rendition of "Barbara Ann." It's Biden being Biden, and few Democrats are likely to turned off by tough talk aimed at the president.
Dan Eggen of The Washington Post identifies another area where the Gonzales Justice Department used the Patriot Act to tighten its control on US attorneys: a little-noticed provision allowing federal prosecutors to live outside their districts and serve simultaneously in other jobs. LINK