On Thursday, 18 senators voted for Senator Feingold's amendment to the war supplemental requiring the president to establish a timetable for the redeployment of US military forces from Afghanistan. This could be a turning point in US policy on the war in Afghanistan.
As Reuters noted:
The chamber's top Democrats were split over an Afghan exit strategy, with some influential lawmakers backing the call for one, a division likely to raise hackles in the White House.
Their support could encourage other liberal Democrats who are pushing for a similar proposal in the House of Representatives, where many lawmakers are also under pressure before congressional elections in November.
With this vote, the number of senators on the record in support of the policy of establishing a timetable for military withdrawal just increased from two to 18: on Tuesday, Senator Boxer added her name to Senator Feingold's bill that would have the same effect.
The other 16 senators who voted yes were Baucus (D-Montana), Brown (D-Ohio), Cantwell (D-Washington), Dorgan (D-North Dakota), Durbin (D-Illinois), Gillibrand (D-New York), Harkin (D-Iowa), Leahy (D-Vermont), Merkley (D-Oregon), Murray (D-Washington), Sanders (I-Vermont), Schumer (D-New York), Specter (D-Pennsylvania), Tester (D-Montana), Udall (D-New Mexico) and Wyden (D-Oregon). (Noteworthy votes against included Senator Franken and Senator Feinstein. Last September, Feinstein called for a specific date for the withdrawal of American forces.)
Senator Durbin's support for the Feingold amendment is particularly striking. Durbin holds the Senate's second highest ranking leadership post: assistant majority leader, also known as majority whip. And Durbin was the senior senator from Illinois when Barack Obama was the junior senator from Illinois, and Durbin was among the earliest promoters of Obama's presidential campaign. You have to figure that Senator Durbin doesn't send a signal like that lightly; and you have to figure that a signal like that is going to be noticed by Obama's political advisers, particularly his political advisers from Illinois, like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel.
This "surge" in Senate support for a timetable for withdrawal should make it easier to build support in the House for a withdrawal timetable when the House considers the war supplemental, as it is expected to do after the Memorial Day recess.
Already, 92 Members of the House have co-sponsored H.R. 5015, Rep. Jim McGovern's (D-Massachusetts) companion legislation requiring a timetable for withdrawal, including members of the House Democratic leadership, like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. George Miller (D-California); if you add in members who earlier this year supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio) withdrawal resolution, more than 100 members of the House are already on the record in favor of a timetable for military withdrawal.
In addition, several broad-based Democratic constituency groups are supporting McGovern's bill, including MoveOn.org, USAction/TrueMajority and the National Organization for Women; it is also supported by US Labor Against the War, Win Without War, Peace Action, Just Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice, Pax Christi, AFSC, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Progressive Democrats of America. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, recently wrote in support of the legislation in her column in the Washington Post.
A handful more of co-sponsors on McGovern's resolution would virtually guarantee that if the House is allowed to consider an amendment like the one the Senate voted on today, the majority of Democrats would vote no. This would establish "there should be a timetable for withdrawal" as the mainstream Democratic position, pressuring the Obama administration to create one, just as Congressional pressure helped create the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan to begin.
You can urge your representative to co-sponsor McGovern's resolution here.