Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

ROLL CALL: Akaka and the war

So I think I'm going to start doing semi-regular roll calls on votes of import, and why and how strategic Congresscritters voted. This isn't the first, but I'm starting an official series with this one. -P&P

Seems like there's trouble brewing in paradise - the Honolulu Advertiser has an article about how he was one of the 80 Senators (including most Dems) who recently voted on the Iraq War, sans pullout deadline:

Such passions against the war in Iraq were key to Akaka's victory. Many reform Democrats and independents who normally would have gravitated to Case backed Akaka because he voted against authorizing the war in the first place and unequivocally supported a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops, while Case insisted on talking about the complexities involved in winding down the war.

It's funny that we've barely heard a peep from these folks now that Akaka had his chance to vote to end the war — and flinched.

Akaka, along with Hawai'i's senior Sen. Daniel Inouye, voted with an 80-14 Senate majority to provide $95 billion to continue funding the war. The bill was stripped of any language to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces after an earlier veto by President Bush.

Well, Akaka did just get Filipino veterans grandfathered/included in the prospective immigration reform bill, but one wonders what votes he had to trade, and if the Iraq vote was one of them. Then again, it's not like he was a swing vote when it's 80-14. Definitely not a good thing to have headlines in one of your most populous cities blaring that you turned your back on a campaign promise this soon in a 6 year term.

Akaka and Inouye could take solace that the bill, laden with pork that Democrats forced on Bush if he wanted his war funding, contained nearly $40 million earmarked for Hawai'i projects, primarily disaster relief related to the October earthquakes.

But it seems unbecoming for them to even mention such crumbs to justify votes on a matter of war and peace, with thousands of American lives and countless billions of dollars in spending at stake.

This is not to suggest it was an easy vote; it's always politically untenable for lawmakers to vote to deny funding to support the forces we've deployed.

The point is that it was Case's argument — not Akaka's — that the war is complicated. For Akaka, it was a simple matter of setting timetables to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

It shouldn't go without note that when push came to shove, Akaka cast the same vote to continue funding the war that Case probably would have.

And speaking of who voted against, here's the long, luscious list...including three very staunchly conservative repubs who voted no on principle - opposed to the social programs (minimum wage increase, etc) that helped Dems slide this thing down their gullets.

NAYs ---14
Boxer (D-CA) - remembers that she represents one of the most progressive states once in a while
Burr (R-NC) - crazy wingnut

*Clinton (D-NY) - had to for the Dem base voters. Probably would have voted yes otherwise. vacillated plenty beforehand. Voted to go to war originally. While this may appease her base some, it doesn't really help her credibility on a little thing called principles. If anything, this vote reinforces the meme that she is willing to vote whichever way the wind blows. In this instance, it was a lose-lose proposition. If she had voted yes, she would have pissed off the base mightily, and perhaps lost precious donors. As Ben Smith suggested, she isn't going to get huge points for this from the antiwar left, but she also isn't going to lose huge points, except for leadership points to Edwards and Dodd on this issue.

Coburn (R-OK)
- crazy wingnut

*Dodd (D-CT) - presidential candidate. pretty middle of the road from the Insurance and HMO State who is trying to run to the left of the frontrunners on this one. Smart play.

Enzi (R-WY) - wingnut
Feingold (D-WI) - true progressive leader, a champion on this issue. I wish he were still in the presidential race.
Kennedy (D-MA) - progressive champ on this issue. On immigration, we need to talk.
Kerry (D-MA) - thank god he found his spine again. I like him so much better when he's not running for President.
Leahy (D-VT) - true progressive

*Obama (D-IL)
- same as Hillary, had to do it for the base, otherwise he would be viewed as inconsistent, having voted against the war to start with. Could have used less hemming and hawwing beforehand though. Again, in my opinion he lost some points to Dodd and Edwards by waiting to declare his position on this issue, which polls as the single most important issue for voters

Sanders (I-VT) - a real fighter for the little guy
Whitehouse (D-RI) - better than chafee would have done
Wyden (D-OR) - consistent with earlier vote against military authorization

Not Voting - 6
Brownback (R-KS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Hatch (R-UT)
Johnson (D-SD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Thomas (R-WY)

So basically this means that Senate leadership like Durbin (number 2) and Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, voted for the thing. If I'm disappointed in anyone, it's Durbin, because he is pretty progressive. Schumer not voting is a classic avoidance technique - this way he doesn't really have to be held accountable by rabid, angry NYers. same weasl technique that Coleman (R-MN) is using because the MN senate race is coming up and he needs some political cover in that purplish-blue state. I'm also a little surprised that California Sen. Feinstein didn't vote with her compatriot. Usually on major bills like this Senators from the same state, same party vote together to provide political cover for each other. (Witness Akaka and Inouye.)

Well, that's it for this edition. Happy June folks.

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