Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sen. Kennedy Is My Hero

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Sen. Ted Kennedy is sponsoring legislation to block funding for any increase in troops for Iraq that has not been approved by Congress.

The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence," Kennedy said. "An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it."

Kennedy has been a leading opponent of the Iraq war. He opposed the 2002 vote to give President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq -- a vote he called "the best vote I've cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate" -- and has called for a withdrawal since January 2005.

Kennedy called Iraq a "quagmire" and drew repeated comparisons to Vietnam, a tactic that Democrats are likely to repeat in the coming months.

"In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.

There was no military solution to that war," Kennedy said. "Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam."

Other Democratic leaders in the Senate announced their own bill: a "nonbinding resolution" that would state disagreement with the escalation while doing nothing to stop it. Slate's John Dickerson aptly describes it as the "Pale Action and Timid Gesture Resolution":

Sen. Ted Kennedy is the Senate Democrats' army of one, trying to launch a revolution when they would prefer cordial discussion. Scheduled to discuss health care at the National Press Club, Kennedy uncorked a stemwinder about the Democrats' responsibility to shut down the Iraq war. He is proposing legislation that would prevent the troop surge President Bush will unveil tomorrow night by prohibiting additional troops and additional dollars for it. Kennedy implored his brothers and sisters in Congress to resist the president's specific new plan, and to revive their branch of government—to "reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice."

"We have the solemn obligation now to show the American people that we heard their voices," Kennedy thundered. Democrats in Congress must fight Bush with something more than "pale actions, timid gestures and empty rhetoric."

Shortly afterward, across town in the U.S. Capitol, the new Senate Democratic leaders took their place before the microphones just off the Senate floor to put forward their plan: a bipartisan, nonbinding bill called the Pale Action and Timid Gesture Resolution. That wasn't the real name, of course, but it is exactly what Kennedy insisted Congress should not do. Afterward, I asked Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois what had happened to his own suggestion that Congress limit the number of troops that could fight in Iraq as a way to stop the surge. "That's Senator Kennedy's bill," said the second-highest-ranking Democrat. Yes, but didn't you suggest that troops be limited, I asked? "That's Senator Kennedy's bill." You're on your own, Ted.

Kennedy's speech to the National Press Club, in which he introduces his legislation, is here. Video of the speech is at Kennedy's blog page at The Huffington Post. Text of the legislation is at Daily Kos.

There is a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about whether Congress can deny Pres. Bush funding for his troop increase. Sen. Joseph Biden opposes escalation, but says that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to stop it, because the October, 2002, resolution authorizing Bush to invade Iraq gives him the right to send more troops now.

The Center for American Progress, although not directly addressing Sen. Kennedy's legislation (probably because the article was written and posted before said legislation was announced) argues that there are numerous examples in the past 30-plus years of Congress taking action to regulate the executive branch's decisions with regard to troop deployments.

Big Tent Democrat agrees that Congress has the authority to say no to any increase in troop levels, "But not in the way that is being discussed today by Senator Kennedy":

Of course, as a practical matter, the President can and will veto any such legislation. But even if such a veto could be overridden, the law would be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers, impinging on the President's power as Commander in Chief in Wartime. In order to act in the manner Senator Kennedy wishes, the Congress must strip the President of the power the Congress granted him to wage war in Iraq. To wit, the Congress needs to "undeclare" the Iraq Debacle by repealing the Iraq War resolution. A new resolution can be approved authorizing the use of force in Iraq for a purpose the Congress wishes, but I believe Senator Kennedy is wrong when he says:

In October 2002, Members of Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I voted against that resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.

Congress authorization was broader than this:

(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

This blanket grant of war power to the President was a disgrace. But it was done. And now it must be undone. ...


Chief said...

It seems to me if there is congressional authorization (Oct 2002) for something, there can be further congressional authorization against something.

Minor Ripper said...

So let me get this straight: Bush is now defying the Baker Report, Congress, the military, and the American public by escalating the war...Forgive me for not brimming over with optimism...