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Lee, Woolsey oppose Iraq plan but rally votes for it

lee3.jpgTwo Bay Area lawmakers reached a deal Thursday so they and some of their anti-war peers can vote against Democratic House leaders’ Iraq Emergency Supplemental spending bill without scuttling it entirely.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, feared her plan — predicating nearly $100 billion in money for the war on a timetable for a 2008 pullout — lacked enough votes to pass. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was the only House Appropriations Committee Democrat to oppose the plan last week; she also co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, leading a crucial Democratic voting bloc of more than 70 members.

woolsey.jpgBut Lee and Woolsey — along with Out of Iraq Caucus chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles — agreed Thursday that while they still won’t vote for Pelosi’s plan, they’ll not stand in its way, either. They told some undecided caucus members it’s OK to support it, thus delivering Pelosi a crucial 10 votes or so.

“As someone who opposed this war from the beginning, I have voted against every single penny for this war as a matter of conscience, but I now find myself in the excruciating position of being asked to choose between voting for funding for the war or establishing timelines to end it,” Lee said in a news release. “I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war.”

While it may be a very political distinction that’s being made here — freeing caucus members to support something you yourself oppose — it’s also a sign that after wandering in the wilderness of a Republican majority for so many years, leading progressives like Lee and Woolsey do wield some clout in the 110th Congress.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.