Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin promised today that he would no longer vote to fund the war in Iraq unless the money is tied to a withdrawal strategy.
Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq but is a pragmatic party leader attuned to political reality. The Illinois senator voted against authorization for the war in 2002 but has since voted for the emergency funding packages that have financed the war.
Durbin’s commitment–and a forceful speech he delivered against new funding for Bush’s war strategy–positions an influential Senate leader in favor of a hard line at a moment when some Democrats are signaling a willingness to compromise on war funding.
Congress is preparing for a struggle over continuation of the troop build-up in Iraq following a report on progress to be delivered next week by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. The White House has indicated it will request a supplemental funding package of approximately $40 billion to pay for continuing the Bush Administration’s “surge” strategy.
Durbin said he would not use his leadership position to lobby fellow senators against funding the war. “Each person has to come to grips with this individually,” he said. But an aide said that Durbin already has met with “five or six” senators to share his view on new funding.
That other Senator could go a long way to wrapping up a lot of primary support by joining Durbin.