House Bans War Powers Resolution Actions Until After Election
September 21, 2014
The House of Representatives quietly snuck an amendment into the jobs package that effectively freezes the War Powers Act for the next 60 days. The bill kills all War Powers Act mechanisms between now and the mid-term elections, and prevents any member of Congress from trying to force a vote on the new ISIS war. In July, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution requiring a vote on any war authorization. With this bill, Congress has shirked its Constitutional responsibilities.
House Bans War Powers Resolution Actions Until After Election
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 19, 2014) -- It was not extremely widely covered, but the House of Representatives snuck an amendment into the jobs package which effectively freezes the War Powers Act for the next 60 days. The bill kills all War Powers Act mechanisms between now and the mid-term elections, and prevent any member of Congress trying to force a vote on the new ISIS war.
The US has been launching airstrikes in Iraq since early August. Under the War Powers Act, military action without a Congressional authorization is forbidden beyond 60 days, a date which will be passed in October. Rep. Pete Sessions (R - TX) accused opponents of the ban of "grandstanding," saying it was necessary for the House to "protect its members" by not allowing any vote on the war until after the mid-term.
Many Congressmen are desperate to avoid such a vote, because the new war is hugely controversial and few want to have to defend their position to voters in November. Instead, the plan is to punt on the vote until after the election, and indeed potentially not bother to hold a vote at all then either.
The Obama Administration has claimed it doesn't need any Congressional authorization for the war, though it has said it is open to the idea of a vote endorsing the conflict for the sake of "unity."
Video of Rep. McGovern
Statement on H. Res. 727, the Rule for Consideration of HR 2 and HR 4
Rep. Jim McGovern / Congressional Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC (September 18, 2014) -- M. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this rule.
Let us be very clear about one of the implications of the language before us: A vote for this rule is a vote to shut off the mechanisms of the War Powers Resolution for the next two months.
If any Member of this House has any concerns about the on-going military operations in Iraq, the potential of US military airstrikes in Syria, or the possible introduction of US combat ground forces into either country, then this rule will tie their hands for the next two months.
If any Member introduces a privileged resolution under the terms of the War Powers Resolution, this rule freezes that resolution in place and stops the clock that would normally advance under the War Powers Resolution.
It is perfectly clear that the House will not debate and vote on an authorization on Iraq at this time. Unfortunately, it is not clear if any vote will ever happen at any time in this House, even after we come back in November -- even though there's a growing bipartisan consensus that such an authorization is needed.
This rule freezes out each and every Member of this House from taking any action to move forward the possibility of a vote on Iraq or Syria under the terms put in place by the War Powers Resolution.
On August 8th, the US began daily bombing in Iraq -- at first to protect the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar. But almost immediately, the bombing campaign expanded to include infrastructure; and then to provide air support to ground operations to retake territory by Iraqi and Kurdish military forces; and then to protect more major infrastructure; and this week to dislodge ISIL from the environs of Baghdad.
For six weeks I have been waiting, patiently, for the Leadership of this House to recognize what we all know is true: the US is engaged in hostilities and carrying out sustained combat operations in Iraq and that it is time for the House to debate and vote on an authorization.
Yesterday, this House voted to authorize training and equipping Syrian opposition forces. But we have yet to debate and vote on an authorization for the combat operations we are already carrying out in Iraq. Over 150 airstrikes – bombs falling nearly every day – in Iraq. And if that doesn't count as sustained combat, then I don't know what the hell does.
I hear the Senate is drafting an authorization. But no such leadership is happening here in the House. The Speaker says he is waiting for the White House to send a request for an authorization to the House. But as I've said before, the President has stated that he thinks he has all the authority he needs or wants.
It is Congress that is failing to carry out its Constitutional responsibilities. It is Congress that is shirking its duties. It is Congress that is sniping from the sidelines while avoiding any responsibility for the servicemen and women we are placing in harm's way.
In July, this House overwhelmingly passed a resolution that I offered along with Walter Jones and Barbara Lee requiring the House to vote on an authorization. And I have been waiting -- patiently and respectfully -- for the Speaker to schedule such a vote.
Instead, this rule goes in the opposite direction, shutting down the ability of any Member to introduce a privileged resolution and allowing it to mature as set forth in the War Powers Resolution.
I understand that this restriction is often included when Congress is in recess for a prolonged period of time. But this time is different, Mr. Speaker, and every Member of this chamber knows it is different. Not only are we engaged in sustained combat operations in Iraq, but the President announced last week that he intends to escalate and expand those military operations, and quite likely extend them to Syria.
This is a moment in history when the House should not and must not remain silent, let alone slink out of town. We have a responsibility to act.
Until that happens, I urge my colleagues to vote down this rule.
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