Senator Merkley (D-Or) deserves our plaudits. His ongoing efforts to initiate an accelerated troop withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan succeeded. The Senate by an overwhelming 63-32 vote established clear Senate declarative policy in support of such an acceleration.
Senator Merkley began his efforts shortly after being sworn into office in 2009. He steadily built support for his efforts. His amendments were voted on and were rejected. Merkley persisted. He worked from the start with Senator Lee (R-Ut), a Tea Party favorite thereby showing he could not only work across the aisle but create unexpected alliances. In 2011 they were joined by Senator Paul (R-Ky).
The November 29th vote is significant because it focuses on declaring that an accelerated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has the Senate’s support. That sends a powerful political message to the President: don’t hesitate to move quickly as it is prudent to do so. Merkley’s resolution had the support of every Senator who caucuses with the Democrats except the retiring Lieberman (I-Conn) and Pryor (D-Ark). Unified Democrats were joined by 13 Republican Senators.
Merkley’s example shows how a creative legislator–Merkley was Speaker of the Oregon House– can establish policy initiatives. As we think ahead in the next two years there will be times that Council and its allies will stand with the Obama Administration.
Approving the New Start Treaty presented such an example in the first Obama Administration. But there will also be situations which require a Senate push to the Administration. Senators stepping up and initiating such actions, when necessary, will be welcome.
Whether the fiscal cliff issue is settled in a timely way, or there is sequestration, the
Senate vote on Afghanistan shows the potential for future ad hoc alliances on cutting the Pentagon budget. Merkley’s bi-partisan efforts are beginning to show the way.