U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle says he respects the work done in the past four years by anti-war protesters. But the vigil by protesters outside of his Downtown office has him a little puzzled.
From roughly 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, activists have been protesting Doyle's decision to vote in favor of a supplemental funding bill that provides money for the war in Iraq. But Doyle notes that the bill was crafted by staunch anti-war Congressman Jack Murtha, and while it does provide war funding, it also sets a September 2008 deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq.
"By asking me to vote against this measure," says Doyle, a Forest Hills Democrat, "they're asking me to vote with the Republicans; to vote with the president. This is a historic piece of legislation that would set a date resulting in troop withdrawal."
If Murtha's bill fails, Doyle says, Republicans will "end up passing their own [funding] without a withdrawal date, and the president will get yet another blank check to fund this war."
But the protesters, who began their vigil March 14, say that despite Doyle's previous anti-war sentiments, a vote for the supplemental-funding bill is a vote for the war.
"If you oppose the war, than you have to oppose funding the war," says Ed Bortz, who stood in the cold, snow and sleet on Friday afternoon outside of Doyle's Ross Street office. On this bitterly cold day, just three protesters remained. But activist Elizabeth Donohoe says their numbers have been as high as a dozen.
"A lot of these Democrats rode the anti-war sentiment into office in November and it's very disappointing to hear them now say they will support a war-funding bill," Donohoe says. While she says it's "encouraging that Congressman Doyle reflects the will of his constituents by opposing the war in speeches and non-binding resolutions," she adds that if legislators "vote to fund the very war they're against, it doesn't mean much, does it?"
However, Doyle says it makes little sense to oppose Murtha's bill -- especially since some form of the funding legislation will be passed anyway.
Doyle says the bill has caused a strange situation to develop. He says some anti-war voices in the party, including some protesters, are against the measure because they want an earlier withdrawal date. Others are against it simply because it provides any funding at all. And all that dissent, Doyle worries, means that when the vote is taken, the bill and its timeline could die due to lack of support.
"That's why I'm puzzled that they're outside of my office asking me to vote with the president," Doyle says. "Because if this fails, the Republicans are going to declare victory.
"The president has already been on television ... asking me to vote against this supplemental. It's just perplexing that I'm getting the same message from anti-war protesters standing outside of my office."