A Chairman, a Chairman and a Secretary in a Senate Brawl

Preaching to the Chorus

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, September 27, 2007; A02
Democrats’ anger has built for weeks over their failure to end the war in Iraq. When Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace arrived on Capitol Hill yesterday, the lid came off.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, didn’t just harangue the two men. He did so in triplicate.
“Funding for the war in Iraq will exceed 600 billion — billion! billion! — dollars!” the 89-year-old lawmaker bellowed, pointing his finger wildly while Gates picked at his cuticles.
“All of this for a war — a war! a war! — that General Petraeus, two weeks ago, could not say had made Americans safer!”
“A long-term presence could cost well in excess of 2 trillion — 2 trillion! Yes, you heard me — 2 trillion!”
When you can coax Senator Byrd off his branch long enough to stop pontificating about his dog or the wonders of turning-leaves in the West Virginia mountains, there’s fire yet in the old boy.
Bob Gates and the thoroughly inept boot-licker he fired, General Peter Pace, have no where else to go with their expense-account reimbursement for the Iraq war than the Appropriations Committee. But first Gates and Pace have to get past the Chairman, who happens to be the usually mild, usually agreeable Senator Byrd. After Gates supplicates, Byrd appropriates (or not, but probably).
No rubber-stamping this time. No lectures on the sunny dispositions of his great-grandchildren (he did lecture Gates that those great-grandchildren would still be paying for this war into their old age). Senator Byrd was in a gavel-pounding and nearly uncontrolled rage, which either means nothing more than an old man venting, or signals some sort of tsunami in the Senate.
One can only speculate on the conversation in the Gates-Pace limousine on the way back to the Pentathlon.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Washington at Work, check out Opinion-Columns.com

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