Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deal or No Deal?

By Carol Gee

There are many people who would like for our U.S. leaders to be able to come to more agreements and be less partisan. They ask with deep frustration, why can't you people just make a deal and move on to the next thing? Today's post focuses on the latest news, plus some previous background, of three "big deals" -- paying for the war in Iraq, leaving Iraq, and following the rule of law regarding the war in Iraq. I explore what kind of deals are in the offing in Congress, between the governments of Iraq and the U.S. and in the District Courts in Washington, D.C. To begin, the "emergency" with the Supplemental may about be over.

Iraq War Supplemental: Memeorandum reports that the House and President Bush have reached a deal on the war supplemental. The Iraq war never gets a regular appropriation -- It has always been in the form of an "emergency supplemental." David Rogers at has been following the story (see reference* below). Here's his latest on the deal reached in the House on the bill. In addition to the wartime spending (with a cut in the administration's request to handle Democratic priorities, but few policy restrictions regarding Iraq), a compromise was reached on extending unemployment insurance. Lawmakers are still working to iron out an agreement on providing disaster relief to the victims of Midwestern flooding. Regarding a proposed GI Education benefit (originally proposed by Senator Jim Webb), the coverage and cost is being increased and the full cost will be added to the deficit. To quote:

The major breakthrough came when both sides gave ground on the issue of providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance to millions of workers who have exhausted their state benefits.

. . . Hoyer was scheduled to meet with Reid on Wednesday night, and portions of the deal trimming back aid to disaster aid for the Gulf Coast are sure to upset some senators. But in reality, the deal outlined — having won White House support — will be hard for the Senate to resist.

. . . President Bush’s top priority has been securing what will now be about $163.7 billion for the Pentagon, chiefly for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and officials said this will come with relatively few restrictions on its war policy.

. . . As part of the package, Democrats effectively cut about $3.5 billion from the president’s defense request to help pay for their priorities, including increased food aid overseas as well as money for the Census, Bureau of Prisons, and Food and Drug Administration.

The deal is changing in Iraq; it will influence whether and how the U.S. remains as an occupier at the end of the year. (Hat tip to Juan Cole for this - 6/19/08). This article is a must read for laying out the issues among all the parties in these very complex negotiations. Trudy Rubin, of, opines in the Fort Worth Star Telegram that a Status of Forces Agreement is far from a done deal. (See reference** to an earlier story below). To quote her opening argument:

A debate is heating up inside Iraq — and inside Washington — that will shape America’s relationship with Iraq under the next president.

The debate is over a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA), a broad strategic framework that will define the long-term role of the U.S. military in Iraq. (The U.N. mandate authorizing the American presence expires at the end of 2008.)

Here’s the big irony about this debate for the Bush administration: The security gains produced by the Petraeus-Crocker strategy in Iraq are leading Iraqis to rethink America’s role.

What is the deal now for all the U.S. detainees suspected of terrorism? We know far too little about the status of everyone being held by the U.S. around the world. But a recent Supreme Court ruling (see reference*** below) addressed those held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The exchange is via ProPublica from the L.A. Times Q&A on what this ruling means, at least for Gauntanamo prisoners:

Question: What does the Supreme Court decision recognizing habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners mean for them?

Answer: Currently, about 270 men are at Guantanamo -- 19 already charged with war crimes, and 250 or so being held without charges, many for more than six years. These prisoners can now get a day in court before a federal judge who will determine whether the government has sufficient evidence that they committed crimes. Habeas corpus is a constitutionally guaranteed right to challenge detention for anyone in U.S. custody, but the Pentagon has denied it to the terror suspects held at Guantanamo. If the district court judges find the government lacks legal grounds for detaining any of the men, the government must release them.

For reference:

  1. *Evolution of the war spending bill negotiations: (6/18/06) A bill on spending for the war is getting attention in both the House and Senate as well as the White House. Democrats are in disagreement. The main issues revolve around what "emergency measures" will be added to the bill, according to David Rogers at To quote:

    . . . Democrats scrambled to finalize a revised bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), one of a handful of lawmakers at the helm, admitted that that the multibillion-dollar package has become a “moving target,”

    . . . The devastating flooding in the Midwest brought the White House to the Capitol on Tuesday, with administration officials seeking $1.8 billion in disaster aid.

    . . . The most ticklish political issue has been a proposed 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for millions of people without jobs nationwide who have exhausted the 26 weeks of aid typically available to them at the state level. Here, too, the White House has shown signs of shifting, and Boehner seems hungry for some deal. But May’s jump in the unemployment rate also sent a jolt through Democratic ranks, making it harder, it seems, to consider a compromise.

  2. ** The U.S./Iraq SOFA negotiations: (6/13/08) From McClatchy Washington Bureau comes the headline, "Maliki raises possibility that Iraq might ask U.S. to leave." To quote:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki raised the possibility that his country won't sign a status of forces agreement with the United States and will ask U.S. troops to go home when their U.N. mandate to be in Iraq expires at the end of the year.

    . . . "Iraq has another option that it may use," Maliki said during a visit to Amman, Jordan. "The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the U.N. terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil."

    Earlier, Maliki acknowledged that talks with the U.S. on a status of forces agreement "reached an impasse" after the American negotiators presented a draft that would have given the U.S. access to 58 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and immunity from prosecution for both U.S. soldiers and private contractors.

    The Iraqis rejected those demands, and U.S. diplomats have submitted a second draft, which Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told McClatchy included several major concessions. Among those would be allowing Iraq to prosecute private contractors for violations of Iraqi law and requiring U.S. forces to turn over to Iraqi authorities Iraqis that the Americans detain.

  3. *** SCOTUS habeas ruling: from Congressional Quarterly newsletter - "Supreme Court rules that Guantanamo detainees can challenge their cases in Federal Court." To quote:

    The Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to the Bush administration Thursday, ruling that suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court.

    The court ruled 5-4 that limits imposed by Congress in 2005 and 2006 on the ability of detainees held as enemy combatants to challenge their detentions in federal courts are unconstitutional, in part because an alternative procedure established in the 2005 law is inadequate.

    . . . Kennedy, who had been seen as the swing vote in the case, was joined in the majority by Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

The times, they are a-changin'. In some ways that can be very good news. Congress and the courts are attempting to exercise stronger leadership in comparison to the Bush administration. In the process the administration may have become more willing to make deals with congress, though partisanship has diminished very little. I am not one of those people who advocate deals at any price, however. Issues that involve civil liberties must not be dealt away. The Supreme Court made that clear to the administration, though we must wait to see how the ruling will be implemented by Congress and the administration. The three "big deals" -- paying for the war in Iraq, leaving Iraq, and following the rule of law regarding the war in Iraq -- are moving forward. Stay tuned for the next deal developments.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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