by James Oliphant
Joe Biden has been betting it all on Iraq for some time now and today his horse came in. A Biden-sponsored amendment to a defense bill that calls for a significant policy change in Iraq passed the Senate today with a wide margin.
The amendment requires the United States to work to support the division of Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions, each governed locally by its dominant ethnic and religious factions, the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The regions would have dominion over police protection, jobs, utilities and other municipal functions, supported by a weaker federal government in Baghdad. All three regions would share in the country’s oil revenues.
Biden (D-Del.) made a signature speech in support of the amendment last week on the Senate floor, but his proposal has been gaining bi-partisan steam since last year. Today it passed by a 75-23 margin, with Republicans such as John Warner (Va.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.), and Sam Brownback (Kan.) signing on. Biden’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) also supported the measure. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Republican John McCain (Ariz.) didn’t vote.
The amendment has more value as a policy goal than a practical move. It doesn’t carry the force of law and isn’t binding on the Iraqi government in any way. But it does represent a different vision for the future of the country than the current one offered by the Bush administration.
Biden’s challenge now is to translate his success on the Senate floor to gains in the polls in Iowa and elsewhere. He’ll be returning to the campaign trail soon.