David Swanson: All 178 House Republicans plan to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/AfPak War Supplemental to protest $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. That means 39 Democratic opponents could defeat the bill. Thirty-six Democrats on the right promised to vote no, so we only need three more.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m coming to you today from Washington, DC. And joining me is David Swanson from Charlottesville, Virginia. Thanks for joining us, David.
DAVID SWANSON, DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATS.COM: Thanks for having me.
JAY: David is the Washington representative of Democrats.com. He’s the cofounder of the popular blog afterdowningstreet.org. And he’s also been following a piece of legislation that’s working its way through Congress, a war supplemental bill which is supposed to help fund two wars but within it has some other interesting twists and turns of legislation, including some funding for the IMF. So, David, tell us what this bill’s about and why you think it should not be passed.
SWANSON: Well, this is yet another—and supposedly the last if it passes, which we are very hopeful it will not—supplemental emergency spending bill. So, you know, these wars that have been going on for the better part of a decade, this is off-budget, we are pretending it’s an emergency, funding the occupations and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s $80-some billion. Plus extra pork and airplanes that the Pentagon doesn’t even want and so on gets it up almost to $100 billion. Then there is $8 billion for the IMF, plus $100 billion in loans to, probably, bankers in East European countries through the IMF. There was this measure attached in the Senate to ban the release of torture photos, and that has been taken out, and that is a victory. But the fact that we successfully got something bad taken out is not a reason to now support the bill. We should support the bill if it’s good, or not. And the overwhelming thing that it does is it gives $97 billion more to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to expand them, to expand these bombings with unmanned drones. And here we are, less than a month away from these deadlines in Iraq, when by the end of June there should be the removal of all US troops from localities in Iraq (let’s see if that’s going to happen) and by the end of July a chance for the Iraqi people to vote.
JAY: There’s an interesting convergence of forces here trying to vote against this bill. You have a certain number of Democrats—and you should give us the numbers in a minute—that are opposed to this on the basis of opposing the war. There are some Democrats that are opposed to the funding for the IMF. There’s Republicans who are for funding the war, I assume, but who are against funding the IMF. So there’s this whole convergence of forces all trying to kill this bill. So explain what these different forces are, first of all. Let’s dig into that.
SWANSON: Well, this is a bill that passed in the House initially, and 51 Democrats and nine Republicans voted no. And these were 51 Democrats voting no to the war funding to please their constituents who want these wars ended. It then went to the Senate, where the IMF measure was added. And now we’re back at the house for a vote that includes the IMF. And so you have a prediction by the Democratic leaders that they will be able to bring it to a vote on Tuesday. You have a prediction that the Republicans as a bloc will oppose it. It’s entirely possible that every single Republican will oppose it, not just the one or two like Ron Paul who oppose funding the wars, but will oppose it because of the IMF money.
JAY: [If] the IMF piece was taken out of it, the Republicans probably would vote for it. Is that not correct?
SWANSON: That’s absolutely right. And they did before, which is why 51 Democrats were able to vote no and claim they had voted no knowing full well that it would pass. And so now we are here in a unique situation where we don’t even need 51, we only need about 38, 39 Democrats to vote no, and it actually matters. They might actually vote no on more money and block war monies.
JAY: Where do you think the voting is at the moment?
SWANSON: Well, we’ve got a whip list at afterdowningstreet.org and democrats.com and firedoglake.com. All of the blogs are working this, and we’ve got about 34, we think, solid no votes among Democrats, many of those because of the IMF or because of both, some of them strictly because of the war. And we’ve got about 15 or so leaning strongly toward no but not fully committed. And we’ve got about 20 that are just undecided, not telling us anything one way or another. So the chances of getting to 39 is entirely possible, but these people are being hammered hard by Nancy Pelosi, by Rahm Emanuel.
JAY: “These people” meaning the Democrats that are there to vote.
SWANSON: I mean the Democrats who might vote no or they’re being pushed to vote present if they won’t vote yes. They are being threatened with a cutoff of any funding for their next campaign. They may be being threatened with challengers in primaries. They are under intense pressure, the freshmen in particular among the Democrats in Congress this year, from the White House and from the Democratic leadership in the House.
JAY: What sort of things are people—the blogs you’re talking about and people you’re talking to, what kind of things are they doing to try to influence this vote?
SWANSON: Well, there are all sorts of creative protests and demonstrations going on. I mean, we’ve talked about health care not warfare, and we’ve seen peace groups pushing for single-payer health care endlessly. Today was the first time I saw a group of doctors go to a Congress member’s office with a giant blank check made out to the IMF and say, “We actually need money for health care, not for the IMF, which forces nations to strip people of health care.” So that’s helpful. We’ve seen all sorts of creative on-the-ground protests and postcard signature collections and so on. But what we’re doing online is mostly generating phone calls. And you can go to democrats.com or afterdowningstreet.org or firedoglake.com and type in your phone number, and a little machine will call your phone and connect you to one office after another of the dozen or so key members who were borderline. And you can do this after hours and leave messages. You can do it during the daytime and talk to them, and report back what they tell you. You can take 10 minutes and call all of the key members who might vote no. And it’s encouraging that a number of organizations are really pushing this when we might actually get it. It’s not just for show. It might, at least temporarily, stop this bill.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, David.
SWANSON: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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