This Congress is about to engage in the legislative equivalent of the gunfight at the OK Corral.
The stage was set when Defense Spending Chairman Jack Murtha described his plans to use the President's Supplemental Iraq spending request for another hundred billion dollars as a vehicle to support our troops in a manner which would limit the President's ability to broaden the war. He described his plan to the Democratic Caucus two weeks ago and again more recently on MoveCongress.org last week.
No sooner was the interview aired than Middle East hawks that have been cheerleading this war from its inception (the White House, FOX News and the myriad of entertainers who make up the Republican right-wing noise machine) started licking their chops at the prospect of exposing the Democrats as cut and run peaceniks that don't support our troops.
They suggest that efforts such as giving our troops 1) mandatory home base time with their families between deployments -- 365 days for the Army and 270 days for the Marines 2) sufficient training and equipment and 3) mandatory face to face physical, mental and emotional health evaluations upon their return from combat -- a standard practice before this Administration came to power -- will demoralize our soldiers and turn the Middle East into a cauldron of blood and chaos.
They are as wrong today as they were when they backed the President's plan four years ago that has now cost us 3,000 lives and the disablement of nearly 20,000 more brave men and women.
To think that Mr. Murtha would take an action that is not in the best interests of our troops is lunacy. No one in the Congress has spent more years in combat nor more time listening to the young men and women and their families who serve our country than Jack Murtha. Just as Mr. Murtha forced Congress and the President to spend money on protective body armor and up-armored Humvees, Jack is now the first American leader to propose a true plan that "supports our troops" in a more genuine way than simply cheering them on into battle.
The Democratic caucus is a very diverse body. This is a strength for our party, not a weakness. It does, however, make legislating difficult at times, especially given the narrow majority we hold in both the House and Senate. I expect there will be great debate within our caucus over Jack's proposal. But in the end, what he has crafted gives voice to the strong concerns the American people expressed at the polls last November. It is a new direction, a direction that will lead to our troops coming home and an end to this Administration's ill-fated, misguided military adventure.