Here's a fun game for this week: Count the number of times Democratic supporters of the war-funding measure say their bill isn't a "blank check," and how many times Republican supporters of the immigration bill say their legislation isn't "amnesty."
That's what it's come down to for the leaders of the two parties in Congress -- a scramble to calm anger on the Democrats' left, and the Republicans' right. Compromise usually happens in the middle, so maybe the pieces are in place for major legislative accomplishments. But the political cross-currents are strong on these two measures; nothing motivates politicians like self-preservation, and nothing threatens primary challenges like the issues of Iraq (for Democrats) and immigration (for Republicans).
The early reviews of the new war-funding bill are in, and check out the verbs being used to describe the Democrats: "flinching," "blinked," "abandoned," "gave up," "relented," "capitulate." Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., is saying she'll probably vote against "such a thing," since it has no timetable for troop withdrawal. Democrats had little choice, and they tossed in some sweeteners for their base -- Katrina aid and a minimum-wage increase. With Republicans declaring victory, the measure is on track to pass this week. But the liberal base is not staying quiet on this one, and this is hardly what Democrats had in mind when they won control of Congress. "The decision to back down was a wrenching reversal for leading Democrats, who saw their election triumph in November as a call to force an end to the war," writes Carl Hulse of The New York Times.
The immigration bill survived a key test vote yesterday, with the "guest worker" plan staying intact. But proponents know they're still on shaky ground -- and grass-roots opposition from all sides is likely to grow over the Memorial Day break. "The intensity of the debate signaled steep challenges for the bipartisan group of senators who wrote the bill and were working to protect its core features, which they think are essential to draw enough votes to pass," Nicole Gaouette writes in the Los Angeles Times.
President Bush, who has perhaps the biggest stake in the current congressional debates, speaks at the Coast Guard Academy's graduation at 11:15 am ET today, an hour after Monica Goodling (finally) testifies on Capitol Hill on the US attorneys scandal.
Bush today is planning to rally support for the war by citing intelligence reports that have Osama bin Laden ordering "a terrorist unit to hit targets outside Iraq, and that the United States should be first [hit]," per the Associated Press' Deb Riechmann.
ABC's Brian Ross reported last night that the president has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" authorizing "a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions." Makes us feel safer already.
On the 2008 front, former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., gets the spotlight today with a 1 pm ET speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Get ready for an Edwards doctrine of "smart power" that leans heavily on diplomacy, though Edwards will not be diplomatic when it comes to the Iraq-funding bill. "Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn't a compromise at all -- it's a capitulation," Edwards plans to say, per his campaign.