Congresspedia Documents the Iraq War Votes (and the $87 billion "Flip-Flop")

As part of our efforts to cut to the facts of issues in Congress, Congresspedia has gone back through the major votes on the Iraq War and summarized what was at stake in each. In this election season, we were reminded of the brouhaha over the 2004 remark by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Kerry, who was responding to a question concerning his voting record on a series of Senate bills to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was widely accused of "flip-flopping" on the Iraq issue. Unsurprisingly, once we dug into the actual legislation we found there was more to it than that.

In September 2003, President Bush requested that Congress appropriate $87 billion in additional funds to fight the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than two weeks after the president's request, Kerry co-sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) to provide the $87 billion in full. The hitch: to cover the spending, the proposal called for a rollback of recently-passed tax cuts on those citizens in the highest income tax bracket. The measure, opposed by the Republican majority in the chamber, was referred to committee and never considered on the floor.

The following month, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) introduced another bill to fund the war; this one appropriating the funds without a tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers. Kerry, insisting that it was irresponsible to pay for the war without adequately providing the funds or asking the nation’s richest individuals to give up their tax cuts to pay for it, was one of only twelve senators to oppose the measure. In essense, this was a debate on tax policy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that pundits seem to be employing (and reinforcing) when using Kerry's phrase as shorthand for a flip-flop or gaffe, his position was pretty clear if you take 30 seconds to understand it. But I guess that doesn't make television.

For more rhetoric-free vote analysis, see Congresspedia's page on the Iraq War votes. And, because we're a wiki, if we missed an important vote, dive right in and add it yourself.