May was a successful month in Iraq on many levels: Attacks in Iraq hit a four-year low, U.S. troop deaths are at their lowest level (down 85% from last May), oil production is almost at pre-war levels, and the anti-American strongholds of Basra and Sadr City are returning to a state of relative calm.
That said, there's still a lot to do in Iraq, which is why President Bush promoted Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. General Ray Odierno. Unfortunately, Congress has decided to play politics with a troop-funding bill, and the Senate used confirmation hearings to, as Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) stated, criticize the "wisdom of the policy that took us to Iraq in the first place and has kept us there for over five years."
On May 22, Petraeus and Odierno testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Petraeus is being nominated to head U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces across the Middle East and South Asia, and Odierno is being nominated to replace Petraeus as the U.S. military commander in Iraq. The major media glossed over the good news they reported. "I believe that the path we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself an its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations," Petraeus said. The Washington Post headline: "Petraeus Expects to Recommend Troop Cuts in Iraq This Fall."
The progress of the war supplemental is further evidence of an agenda by the left to slow walk the necessary funding of our troops in the field. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, absent a war supplemental or a reprogramming request, the Army won't be able to pay its soldiers by June 15 and all the services will begin running out of operations and maintenance funds by July 5.
House leaders have tried to tie war funding to domestic spending, including unemployment insurance and members' pet programs, in addition to cut-and-run language that would eliminate the gains our troops have made. Time is running out for Congress to fund the troops without defeatist language and domestic pork.
On May 15 a state court in California declared, "We cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional." This despite the fact that, in 2000, 61% of California voters approved a proposition that defines the union of a man and a woman as the only valid or recognizable form of marriage.
The activism on the left from the bench to declare gay marriage a constitutional right, and the manner in which Majority Leader Harry Reid is handling the pending nominations of President Bush to the federal courts suggest a potential radical shift in judicial philosophy to pack the courts with judges who legislate from the bench. Last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) shut down the Senate by using a procedural maneuver to force the clerk to read the 491-page Climate Change Bill to protest Reid's slow-walking of President Bush's nominees to various circuit courts of Appeals.
In April, Reid stated: "I will do everything within my power to get three judges approved to our circuit courts before the Memorial Day recess. Who knows, we may even get lucky and get more than that." The Senate subsequently confirmed ... one. Does the majority leader lack the power to schedule votes anymore?
National Fingerprint Registry
Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) authored a bill (with 11 co-sponsors, including Barack Obama) that was incorporated into a Housing bill passed by the Senate Banking Committee 19-2 before the Memorial Day recess -- a bill that creates a national fingerprint registry. According to a Martinez press release, the language merely "create[s] national licensing and oversight standards for residential mortgage originators." One of the standards, John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, may "require thousands of individuals working even tangentially in the mortgage and real estate industries -- and not suspected of anything -- to send their prints to the feds." This is a step in the wrong direction -- at least for a nation that preserves freedom.
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events.com