No Relief from Unconstitutional Wars: House Rejects Vote on Authorization of ISIS War
June 12, 2015
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Deb Riechmann / Associated Press
Ten months into the US war on ISIS, the chances of getting an actual Congressional vote on the conflict looks less likely than ever, with Rep. Adam Schiff’s amendment voted down by the House 231-196, in a vote strongly along party lines. The amendment would simply have required that the House have a vote on the authorization of the war at some point before March 31 of 2016. Having failed, members of Congress (the peoples' representatives) appear set not to have a vote on the war at all.
House Rejects Effort to Force Vote on ISIS War Authorization
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 11, 2015) -- Ten months into the US war on ISIS, the chances of getting an actual Congressional vote on the conflict looks less likely than ever, with Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) amendment getting voted down today in the House 231-196, in a vote strongly along party lines.
The amendment wouldn’t have offered any guidance on the war itself, but would simply have required that the House have a vote on the authorization of the war at some point before March 31 of next year. Having failed, they appear set not to have a vote on the war at all.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 forbids the US from entering any armed conflict longer than 60 days without an explicit vote authorizing it from Congress. This timeline would’ve put the vote ahead of the mid-term elections, however, so Congressional leaders decided to punt the controversial issue down the road.
Months after the election, however, the White House finally got around to proposing an AUMF for the war, but publicly bragged it was so deliberately vague as to allow them to do whatever they wanted. Controversy surrounding that left that version of the authorization basically dead on arival.
Still, the war continued, and while there has been occasional talk about some other authorization with some actual limits in it, it’s never really gotten very far, and officials seem by and large content to continue the war for years on end without Congress having any say at all.
House Passes Defense Spending Bill
Deb Riechmann / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (June 11, 2015) -- The House on Thursday approved a $579 billion defense spending bill that offers a slight pay raise to US troops, but reflects deep divisions on budget priorities and whether President Barack Obama needs new war powers to fight Islamic State militants.
The vote was 278 to 149 in favor of the bill, which drew stiff opposition from Democrats because it uses a war-fighting account to raise defense spending next year.
The measure gives President Barack Obama roughly all the money he requested for defense, but does so by hiking the war-fighting account -- which is not subject to congressional spending caps -- by almost $40 billion. The president says he will veto spending bills that do not deal with the arbitrary spending limits and treat defense and non-defense expenditures equally.
"This is a strong defense bill that provides our troops with the resources they need and the raise they have earned," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "It reflects the reality of a dangerous world, including resources to combat cyberattacks."
He noted that only 43 Democrats voted for the bill.
"This is part of Democrats' scheme to oppose anything and everything -- even a pay raise for our troops -- in order to extract more money for the IRS and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)," he said. "Democrats are playing a dangerous and selfish game with our national security."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats strongly support national defense, but want the spending caps lifted. They oppose using the emergency war-fighting account because it gives the military money for only one year. "The defense appropriation bill is bad budgeting and harmful to military planning -- perpetuating uncertainty and instability in the defense budget, and damaging the military's ability to plan and prepare for the future," she said.
Before the final vote, the House rejected an amendment to force lawmakers to vote by the end of March on new war powers to fight Islamic State militants.
The vote was 231-196 against the amendment, a vote that underscored the lack of political will in both the House and Senate on the bitterly disputed issue.
Introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, the measure would have required Congress to debate and vote on a new authorization for the use of military force by March 31. The amendment called for banning the use of funds in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria unless Congress passed a new authorization.
"Ten months into an undeclared war against ISIS, Congress yet again dodged its responsibility to authorize the use of force," Schiff said after the vote. "While our pilots and special forces risk it all, Congress refuses to do its job. Congressional abdication of our responsibility to declare war, or to deny authorization for war, sets a terrible precedent and shifts war-making powers substantially and inexorably towards the executive" branch.
On Wednesday, Obama ordered the deployment of up to 450 more American troops to Iraq in an effort to reverse major battlefield losses to the Islamic State, an escalation but not a significant shift in the struggling US strategy to defeat the extremist group. Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, are pushing for a new authorization for the use of military force in the fight against IS.
The defense bill itself enjoyed bipartisan backing when separated from the broader budget debate. The measure provides $8.4 billion for 65 next generation F-35 fighter aircraft, eight more than requested by the Pentagon, as well as $16.9 billion toward nine new Navy ships. It also prevents the retirement of the A-10 aircraft that protects ground troops. Men and women in uniform would get a 2.3 percent pay hike, a percentage point higher than requested by Obama.
The defense measure also boosts funding for procurement of National Guard equipment well above the Pentagon's request, drawing a protest from the administration, and would also block the transfer of Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard to the regular Army.
The companion Senate version of the bill easily advanced through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning but faces a filibuster next week as Democrats seek to force Republicans to the negotiating table to boost domestic accounts.
The Senate bill contains even more money for F-35 fighters and shipbuilding and $330 million more than requested by the Pentagon for Israeli missile defense systems.
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