Troop Plan Could Irk Hill Democrats

Posted March 28, 2008 at 5:43pm

In an effort to think outside the Beltway, more than three dozen Democratic Congressional hopefuls have organized what they call a “Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq,” a policy proposal and media company that intends to present their own plan to end the Iraq War.

But the policy initiative might irk some Democrats on Capitol Hill who swept into power in 2006 in part by running on what they called Republican failings to improve the situation in Iraq.

About 40 House and Senate candidates have endorsed the plan, led by a core group of Democrats including Darcy Burner, running for Washington’s 8th district seat, Eric Massa in New York’s 29th, Donna Edwards in Maryland’s 4th, Tom Perriello in Virginia’s 5th, Chellie Pingree in Maine’s 1st, Jared Polis in Colorado’s 2nd, Steve Harrison in New York’s 13th, Larry Byrnes in Florida’s 14th, Sam Bennett in Pennsylvania’s 15th and George Fearing in Washington’s 4th.

And one Democratic operative familiar with the situation said not everyone is happy that these Democrats have struck out on their own. The Democrat said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was worried in particular about the group’s media initiative.

“They’re very upset about it,” the Democratic operative said. “When they found out that there were a lot more people signing on, they were getting worried. I don’t know exactly what their problem is.”

The “Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq” is a more than 30-page policy proposal based on the premise that only a diplomatic solution can resolve the problems in Iraq. Sponsoring Democrats say the proposal, initiated by Burner almost six months ago, includes input from former Defense Department officials and retired military personnel who have worked in Iraq.

“You can see these candidates are pushing the envelope a little bit, and perhaps that’s why organizations like the DCCC would be getting a little nervous,” said the operative.

Another organizer for the plan did not go as far as to say the DCCC was perturbed by the idea, but instead said the committee was “puzzled” by it at first. Nonetheless, the organizer described discussions with the DCCC about the plan as “amicable.”

DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said the committee has no problem with the candidates’ collective effort.

“Democrats are united in our need to bring change to Iraq,” he said. “It’s up to individual candidates how to best do that for their district.”

Burner said that whenever possible, the plan points out existing legislation that accomplishes the group’s goals. When asked about the DCCC’s reaction to the challengers’ proposal, Burner said it was never their intention to look inside the Beltway for support.

“The answer is that they have certainly done nothing to hurt us,” Burner said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “But as a I said before, this has not been an effort that is drawn from inside the Beltway.”

Burner said she hears frustration from voters in her district that Washington, D.C., politicians don’t understand the problem. Her campaign manager, Sandeep Kaushik, described the DCCC as being “generally supportive, but at a distance” because the campaigns did not ask the committee to get involved in developing the plan.

Kaushik also said that while it could be politically advantageous to present a plan that appears to be from far outside the Beltway, that wasn’t the candidates’ motivation.

“There’s no question that there’s been a public frustration since the 2006 election that the war has continued,” he said. “And if anything, the Bush administration has escalated the war in what seems to be a repudiation of the public will. We need to start building solutions from the grass roots up.”