The Morning Line: Debating the War

BY Terence Burlij  July 27, 2010 at 9:38 AM EDT

Two events on Capitol Hill Tuesday will keep the intensifying debate over the Afghanistan war effort in the spotlight.

The House of Representatives may vote as early as today on the slimmed down $60 billion war supplemental bill passed by the Senate last week.

The House has already passed a war supplemental bill, but that one was loaded up with domestic spending and received a veto threat from the White House.

The WikiLeaks release of more than 75,000 documents depicting a wayward war effort in Afghanistan will serve to complicate any legislative action related to the war including today’s possible vote on the funding for it.

The war funding bill is expected to pass, but an already restive Democratic caucus in the House, with regard to Afghanistan, has only become more so in light of the massive document dump published yesterday.

Later this afternoon, Gen. James Mattis goes before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing as President Obama’s pick to head U.S. Central Command. His smooth confirmation is still expected, but the WikiLeaks story will now present every Senator on the committee a fresh avenue of questioning for Mattis.

FULL DISCLOSURE

Senate Democrats will attempt to clear a key procedural hurdle Tuesday on a bill aimed at increasing the transparency of corporate and special-interest money in federal elections.

The DISCLOSE Act was developed in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in the Citizens United case earlier this year, which allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign advertising.

The bill, which passed the House last month, mandates that organizations make public the identities of top donors and have the head of the company or group appear in the ad.

Long-standing non-profit organizations with more than 500,000 members, such as the NRA and the AARP, would be exempt from the bill’s disclosure rules.

In a statement in the Rose Garden Monday, President Obama said, “A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded: “The DISCLOSE Act seeks to protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all out attack on the First Amendment.”

Democrats will need 60 votes to move forward on the bill, the path to which is still uncertain. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., has said he will oppose the bill, while Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, has remained noncommittal.

GOING GREEN?

All eyes will be on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday as he is expected to unveil the text of a targeted oil spill response and energy jobs bill. The release had been pushed back by a day to give the Congressional Budget Office an additional time to review the legislation.

The delay raises further doubts about whether the Senate will be able to vote on an energy bill before the start of a month-long August recess in less than two weeks. That could lead to even greater disappointment on the part of environmental activists already troubled by Reid’s decision last week not to push for a cap on greenhouse gases, citing a lack of support among his colleagues for such a measure.

However, one item that has seen its prospects grow in recent days is a renewable energy standard (RES), which mandates that a certain percentage of the nation’s electricity come from clean sources.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, issued a statement Monday calling for an RES to be included in the upcoming energy legislation.

That came after 27 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Reid last Friday urging him to put a renewable power standard in the bill.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

House Democrats are working behind the scenes to get embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., to a place where he is ready to accept a deal acknowledging any violation of House rules in hopes of avoiding a public Ethics Committee trial that will further scar the already beleaguered party heading into the midterm election season this fall.

“‘I was presenting him with some of my observations,’ said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign arm,” reports the New York Post of his meeting with Rangel last night.

“Van Hollen added that he was acting ‘as a friend.’”

The Wall Street Journal gets to the crux of the matter. Unless and until the Congressional Black Caucus fully buys in to the Democratic leadership’s desire for Rangel to cut a deal, it’s less likely to happen.

Any deal will likely result in Rangel never again wielding the gavel as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Once that reality sets in for the veteran member of Congress, does retirement or resignation become a more attractive option?

The next 48 hours should tell us if Democrats successfully lanced this boil or if wrangling Rangel will be a storyline that lasts throughout the fall.

KOOKY COLORADO

Move over, South Carolina. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., announced Monday he was launching a third-party bid for governor, jeopardizing the GOP’s chances of winning the seat this November.

Tancredo intends to run as a member of the American Constitution Party. The move comes after Tancredo issued a statement last week calling on the winner of the upcoming Republican primary between Scott McInnis and Dan Maes to agree to step down and allow the party to select a replacement candidate.

McInnis, a former congressman, had been leading in the polls before plagiarism charges came to light. Meanwhile, Maes paid a $17,500 fine earlier this month for campaign finance violations involving improper mileage reimbursement.

Tancredo sparred with the head of Colorado’s Republican Party, Dick Wadhams on a Denver talk radio show yesterday morning.

The Republican race for Senate has also seen its share of fireworks. First there was Ken Buck’s response to a question at a June 18 campaign event on why voters should choose him over former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. His answer – “I don’t wear high heels. … I have cowboy boots, they have real bull —- on them.”

Now, a recording of Buck has come to light, referring to tea party members who question President Obama’s birth certificate as “dumba—s.”

Stay tuned. There are still two weeks left before the state’s Aug. 10 primary.

David Chalian contributed to this report.

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