Thursday, April 26, 2007

Congress v. the President: Round 2

As expected, the Democrat-led Senate has also passed the Bill seeking to make continued funding for the Iraq adventure conditional on a definite start date for withdrawal, and a target completion date. Republicans have, again, dismissed the Bill as nothing more than a "stunt", which seems a little disingenuous, given the undoubted strength of feeling involved for many of those who feel that the US should not remain in Iraq. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, given their dependence on US support, senior Iraqi Government officials have taken a similar line, with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari suggesting that "this is part of the politicking, basically, in Washington and this has been damaging in fact to the security, political development, not only in Iraq, but in the entire region..."

Bush has, naturally, reiterated his intention to use the veto, safe in the knowledge that the Democrats cannot muster enough votes in Congress to override it. Perhaps, however, this is not such a big deal, however it may look to those of us unfamiliar with the Presidential system (for example, for all of the accusations levelled against him in this regard, it is difficult to imagine Blair going directly against a clear Parliamentary vote on an issue such as this; not least of all because only the Queen is constitutionally "empowered" to do so). The BBC provides a helpful comparison of other presidents' usage of the veto power:

George W Bush: 1
Bill Clinton: 38
George Bush Snr: 44
Ronald Reagan: 78
FD Roosevelt: 635
Thomas Jefferson: 0

Roosevelt was in power for 12 years, from 1933-1945; which works out, by my reckoning, at just over one veto per week... Clearly, then, the use of the veto alone is not something that is viewed as in and of itself undemocratic in the US (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the direct electoral mandate of the President); it would be interesting to know, however, what if any the constitutional safguards are in terms of the dramatic situation in which we now find ourselves - namely, the ongoing prosecution of a deeply unpopular war, by a President in the latter years of his period in office, and whose Party suffered heavy losses at the most recent elections (largely as a direct result of that war). Anyone?

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