GOP hits McNerney on war bill; but is he out of touch?

The Republican Party slammed Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, for his vote Thursday, along with the rest of the Bay Area delegation, against the $120 billion Iraq War supplemental funding bill.

The GOP called it a vote against the troops and again described McNerney as out-of-touch with his constituents in District 11, a Republican-leaning district that straddles the East Bay and the San Joaquin Valley.

“The fact that Jerry McNerney cannot bring himself to vote for a bi-partisan troop-funding bill that sets benchmarks for the Iraqi people just goes to show how out of step he is with the values of his district,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “Every member of the Democrat leadership voted for funding the troops except for Nancy Pelosi and apparently Jerry McNerney was willing to follow her lead once again. This should not come as a surprise since Jerry McNerney has voted with the San Francisco speaker 99 percent of the time.”

Spain’s statement is not entirely true. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, voted against the funding and he’s chairman of the House Democrats’ policy committee.

Whether or not the supplemental bill helps or hurts the troops is a matter of debate. Clearly, the troops need funds to run a war but if they weren’t in Iraq, they wouldn’t need the money.

But is McNerney out of sync with his district on the war?

Yes and no.

A New York Times/CBS poll released today says that opposition to the war has reached a historic high. (Click here for story in Contra Costa Times today.)

According to the story, six in 10 Americans say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq and three in four say things are going badly there.

But the majority of Americans, the New York Times writes, support continuing to the fund the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.

Only 13 percent of respondents want Congress to block all funding, while 69 percent — including 62 percent of Republicans — say Congress should condition funding on progress in Iraq.

(Added on June 1: A commenter accurately points out the results of a national poll may not accurately reflect the opinions of voters in congressional District 11. While it’s true that national polls can vary from region to region, this is the latest poll on the subject and the closest measurement available about voters’ views on the subject. It’s far from perfect but sometimes you use what you have.)

The heart of the dispute is on what those conditions should contain. Democrats, including McNerney, have argued in favor of a timeline, a restriction that President Bush and Republicans have steadfastly opposed. The legislation does contain benchmarks, a far less restrictive environment that Democrats and anti-war activists dislike.

McNerney sent out a press release explaining why he voted no. Here’s what he said:

“I have been steadfast in my commitment to use the most responsible and effective strategy to bring about a close to the violence in Iraq.

“I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform. They have done everything asked of them and have done so admirably. Our strategy in Iraq must match the commitment with which our military men and women have served.

“The spending plan the House voted on today provided the President a blank check and I could not support it.”

McNerney also said he voted against it because it did not include a “reasonable timeline for redeploying troops from Iraq, enforceable benchmarks, or the Pentagon’s requirements for providing the training and equipment our men and women in uniform.”

“Supporting our troops means providing our men and women in uniform all of the means necessary to carry out their mission and bring a responsible close to the conflict in Iraq,” McNerney said. “This bill did not do that and I could not support it.”

For an interesting read on why McNerney’s neighbor, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, voted in favor of the bill, (he was one of 82 Democrats who defied their colleagues and voted yes) check out Stockton Record reporter Hank Shaw’s blog.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen