Monthly Archives: March 2007

George Will On The D.C. Vote Bill

George Will has a column in today’s Washington Post about the bill making it’s way through Congress to give the District of Columbia a vote in Congress which I wrote about last week. As only he can, Will deftly points out the real motivation behind this bill, and it has nothing to do with voting rights:

If Congress’s “exclusive legislation” power concerning the District can trump one constitutional provision, it can trump any provision: Congress could establish a religion, stifle free speech or authorize unreasonable searches and seizures in Washington. And if Congress’s power over the District allows it to award full House representation, why could it not also award two Senate seats? Today’s Congress is pressing House representation for the District partly because of that predictable next step: The District would be a reliable source of two Democratic senators.

If majorities in both houses of today’s Congress want the fewer than 600,000 District residents to be fully represented, they can accomplish that with legislation shrinking the city to the core containing the major federal buildings and monuments, and giving the rest back to Maryland. Democrats are uninterested in that because it would not serve their primary objective of increasing their Senate seats.

So the next time you hear Steny Hoyer or some other member of the leadership talking about how this is all about voting rights, ask them why they feel like they have to violate the Constitution in order to give someone voting representation in Congress.

Bush vs. Congress: Let The Confrontation Begin

Following on the heals of the House of Representatives, the Senate has approved, by a narrow margin, an Iraq War spending bill that sets a deadline of roughly one year from today by which American forces must be out of Iraq:

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.

As with the House vote the margin in the Senate is far short of what would be needed to override a Presidential veto, and it is unlikely that any of the 46 Republicans plus Joe Lieberman who voted against the bill would cross over and vote to override and expected veto. The bill is dead in the water.

I generally support the idea that the United States needs to start thinking about an exit strategy in Iraq, and that we need to do so sooner rather than later. I also think that the war itself, and the way it’s been handled since virtually day one, have been a colossal series of mistakes. But the way the Senate has gone about doing this is totally unconstitutional. First of all, Congress simply doesn’t have the authority to order the President to follow a specific military strategy. They authorized the use of military force and the President is Commander in Chief. As CiC, he has the authority to decide military strategy. Not only that, he is the head of a co-equal branch of government and is not subservient to Congress.

There really is only one way for Congress to exercise authority over America’s policy in Iraq. They would have to exercise the power of the purse and vote to defund the war. By all indications, the Democrats on the Hill have neither the political courage nor the support among their own members for such a move. Additionally, polling seems to indicate that while the public wants American troops to come home, they would not support cutting off funding to those troops as long as they are there.

Both practically and politically, the opponents of the war are in a very difficult position unless they can convince the President to change his mind. Given what we’ve seen from George W. Bush over the past seven years, that seems highly unlikely.

Quote To Ponder

“Psychologically, it is important to understand that the simple fact of being interviewed and investigated has a coercive influence. As soon as a man is under cross-examination, he may become paralyzed by the procedure and find himself confessing to deeds he never did. In a country where the urge to investigate spreads, suspicion and insecurity grow.”
— Joost A. Merloo
Source: The Rape of the Mind, 1956

Do I really need to add any commentary to this? It seems obvious and self-evident. Worse yet, it is a daily feature of government in this country.

War Policy And Pork: Perfect Together

The Senate is debating the Democrats’ Iraq spending plan, which includes a call for the withdrawal of all troops before the 2008 elections and, as Dana Milbank reports, they’re talking about more than the Iraq War:

It’s common for lawmakers to complain that a spending bill is “loaded up like a Christmas tree” with pet projects. But the Iraq Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act going through the Senate this week is unusual in that it is loaded up with Christmas trees.

Specifically, it includes $40 million for a Tree Assistance Program that provides help for Christmas trees and ornamental shrubs. Also in the Senate’s version of the Iraq bill: $24 million for sugar beets, $3 million for Hawaiian sugar cane, $13 million for the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program, $100 million in compensation for dairy losses, $165.9 million for fisheries disaster relief, and money for numerous other “emergencies.”

And what of the Coburn Amendments that Brad wrote about earlier this week ? Well, at least one of them has already gone down to defeat:

[T]he senators could not dwell on matters of war — Vietnam or Iraq — for long. They had to take up an amendment from Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who demanded to know why $100 million in security for the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions was included in the “emergency” Iraq legislation. “This isn’t sudden,” Coburn argued. “It’s not unpredictable, and it wasn’t unanticipated. There have been nominating conventions since 1832 in this country.”

Coburn lost the vote. For the Senate, even an American political convention qualifies as an Iraq emergency.

I’m beginning to think that the legislative process in this country is irretrievably broken. When Congressmen and Senators can add subsidies for strawberry farmers to a bill that is supposed to be about America’s involvement in a war, then the probability of ever getting control of an out-of-control budget seems to me to be pretty low.

1 2 3 4 5 40