Washington DC: After 45 minutes of contentious debate and a 15-minute vote, the House of Representatives passed a budget that allows the government to continue operating for one hour. In a straight party line vote, the House approved a $ 10 million cut in government spending and a variety of amendments.
At a hastily gathered press conference that took place even as the House was debating another one-hour CR, Speaker of the House Sarah Palin said, “You betcha this proves those naysayers wrong. The Tea Party can govern effectively while staying true to our principles. That’s why I’m going to be the next President of the United States.”
Earlier in the day, John Boehner resigned the Speakership in disgrace after it was revealed he had used taxpayer funds to pay for “tear duct enhancement” surgery.
In a surprise move, the entire Democratic caucus joined with the Tea Party members of the GOP caucus to vote in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Speaker, since the Constitution does not require the Speaker be a House member (see Office of the Clerk Member FAQ here).
A lachrymose Boehner congratulated Palin saying, “I’m impressed that Speaker Palin, who I’m sure will be the next president of the United States, was able to pass this one hour CR in 60 minutes.”
The CR had a number of unusual amendments:
- The Environmental Protection Agency is banned from regulating any pollutant.
- The House cafeteria can only serve polar bears and other endangered species.
- All House members, when referring to Speaker Palin, must assert that she will be the next president of the United States.
NOTE: I welcome reader suggestions for other April 1 amendments.
UPDATE: In a breaking story, Palin has stunned the political world again by resigning from her Speakership. In a speech from her home in Wasilla, Alaska — described by CBS News as “rambling and sometimes confusing” and by Fox News as “cogent and always coherent” — she said:
Hi America, I appreciate speaking directly TO you, the people I serve, as your Speaker. That’s what Speakers do. They speak. But I’ve been doing enough “Speaking” and now just want to “speak.” To you. America.
People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing’s more important to me than speaking. Speaking for all Americans is the greatest honor I could imagine. Other than another speaking at a political dinner for $ 100,000.
This decision comes after much consideration, and finally polling the most important people in my life – my Facebook friends. I also polled my family, where the count was unanimous… well, in response to asking: “Want me to make a positive difference and fight for ALL our children’s future from OUTSIDE the Speakers’s office?” It was four “yes’s” and one “hell yeah!” The “hell yeah” sealed it – though I sent that one to bed without dinner for swearing. Jeez.
Now, despite this, I don’t want any American dissuaded from entering politics after seeing this REAL “climate change” that began a few hours ago … no, we NEED hardworking, average Americans fighting for what’s right! And I will support you because we need YOU and YOU can effect change, as long as you quit your jobs now, like me.
In the words of General MacArthur said, “We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”
Also, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” And having lived in Alaska most of my life, I can’t tell you how much I hate gathering moss. Thank you.
No one supports actual religious discrimination, but the OIC is dedicated to quashing all honest discussion of jihad and Islamic supremacism under this rubric. Hence their happy reaction to this resolution. “OIC commends resolution on religious discrimination,” from Arab News, March 26:
JEDDAH: The UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a new resolution on the elimination of forms of discrimination and violence based on religious beliefs.
The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents the Islamic group at the council participated in the March 24 discussion. The United States and the European Union too were represented.
Informed sources in the OIC General Secretariat here said that the new resolution related to combating religious intolerance and negative stereotypes, stigmatization, discrimination, and incitement to violence, and violence against individuals based on religion and belief is not a substitute for an earlier resolution adopted by the UN on combating defamation of religions, which the Human Rights Council had adopted many times in the past several years.
The sources stated that the new resolution is a qualitative breakthrough because it was adopted unanimously, adding, it gives the widest margin of freedom of expression, with the rejection of discrimination and incitement and stereotypes used by the other or against the symbols of the followers of religions.
The sources emphasized that the OIC approved the new resolution from a position of strength, particularly after the adoption of the Human Rights Council resolution on defamation of religions over the past four years with a clear majority.
However, the sources stressed that the issue of acceptance of the new resolution comes as a goodwill gesture by the organization in order to reach the necessary consensus, bridge the gap, and partner with the West in addressing the anti-Islam sentiments that prevailed in some Western communities toward Muslims.
There is no discussion in this context of Islamic jihad terrorism and supremacism as having something to do with the alleged “anti-Islam sentiment” in “some Western communities.” That connection is precisely what the OIC is trying to obscure.
The new resolution came after the OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu proposed last year, a number of proposals on the possibility of reaching a common ground toward a solid platform for its adoption.
According to informed sources, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had invited the OIC to lead, along with both Washington and the European Union, the efforts to draft a new resolution to ensure the foundations adopted by the previous resolution, giving a wider margin of freedom of expression.
The sources confirmed at the same time that the decision regarding defamation of religions has not been abandoned.
This is the most contentious of the resolutions, because in countries with strong protections on speech and other forms of expression, the idea that a religion can have the same defamation protections as living individuals is considered an affront to individual rights.
But the OIC is dedicated to overcoming that obstacle.
The Michigan House of Representatives adjourned Thursday afternoon without taking up for a second time a resolution to overturn the Michigan Civil Service Commission decision to approve health benefits for unrelated adults living with state employees.
Resolution SCR9 was listed as an action item for the day under a calendar released by House Speaker Jase Bolger’s office. But in the end, the House ignored the resolution, passed a series of bills, shot through second reading on another bundle of bills and then adjourned until April 12.
Republicans had promised another vote on the resolution on Tuesday when they failed to garner enough votes to pass it. In order for the resolution to take effect a two-thirds majority of lawmakers must approve it. The Republicans have a 63 seat majority in the House, but needed 11 Democrats to cross party lines and vote for the resolution. On Tuesday, one Democrat actually crossed party lines and voted for the resolution, while another declined to vote at all. The rest of the Democratic caucus voted no, causing the vote to fail.
The same resolution has already cleared the Senate. If lawmakers in the House garner the necessary votes to pass the resolution by April 18, it will be the first time the legislature has overturned a MCSC decision in Michigan history.
Bolger spokesperson Ari Adler did not immediately return inquiries about why the resolution was not voted on.
Larison has a theory:
When all of the major powers opposed to intervention abstained on the resolution, supporters of the war were encouraged by this, but those abstentions were really votes of no-confidence. Germany was as adamantly against the Libyan war as it was against the Iraq war, but this time the permanent member opponents were willing to let Western governments plunge ahead without a lengthy, protracted debate and the threat of veto in the Security Council. After all, why should they jeopardize their relations with Western governments by opposing the Westerners’ folly?
Brazil and Turkey have already experienced the unpleasant political consequences of trying to do the right thing by Western governments by opposing misguided Iran sanctions, and others probably learned from that episode that there is nothing to be gained by getting in between Western governments and their targets. Germany probably doesn’t want to repeat its Iraq war experience by damaging the relationship with the U.S. to save Obama from making a mistake.
“In December 2008, the outgoing Bush administration opposed a French resolution at the U.N. General Assembly on the issue of homosexual rights because it feared that the loosely worded document might make it difficult for American states to reject gay marriage. The Holy See concurred, saying that terms like ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ were contentious because they ‘find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law.’ Thus, they would ineluctably create ‘uncertainty in the law.’ [snip]
“Now the Obama administration has chosen to adopt the identical terms in its declaration. The ultimate difference between the Obama administration and the Vatican lay in their respective approaches to homosexual marriage: the American government has repeatedly shown no interest supporting efforts to maintain the traditional understanding of marriage. At stake is the right of nations which reject homosexual marriage to maintain their standards without undue pressure from those which embrace it. And that is exactly what will happen if overly broad language is adopted.” – Catholic League president Bill Donohue, denouncing today’s action by the Obama administration.
The Michigan House of Representatives is prepared to vote on a resolution which would overrule a January decision by the Michigan Civil Service Commission to provide partner benefits to state employees.
Republicans say the move will cost $ 6 to $ 8 million in increased costs for the state. Supporters say the costs are inflated, noting that in other locations where similar benefits have been implemented a tiny fraction of those eligible for the program enrolled.
The Senate passed the resolution earlier this month in a voice vote. One Democrat crossed party lines to join the Republican super majority in the chamber to approve the resolution. Because the bill was approved on a voice vote, it is unknown who that Democrat was.
And the House seems poised to push the resolution through with a similar action. In the House the move is called “gaveled through.” It is used by the majority party (including Democrats in the past) to pass consent agendas quickly. The acting chair, who is not always the Speaker, calls the vote, there is a verbal response (aye or nay) and the chair says the motion has passed.
The House currently has a 63 member GOP majority. But approving this resolution requires a two-thirds super majority, which means 74 votes, so 11 Democrats need to cross party lines in order for the bill to pass.
The resolution was passed out of committee last week while protesters were demonstrating against plans by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit and to impose a tax on retirement pensions.
If the House approves the measure, it will be the first time in the history of the MCSC that a decision by the body was overturned by the legislature. Republicans are also seeking a ballot initiative to remove the MCSC from the state constitution, and in the meantime has been working to strip the body of much of its power.
American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn sent a letter to Republican leaders in the state asking them to reject the MCSC decision. But he went a step further and asked them to ask Bill Schuette, the GOP Attorney General, to determine if providing the benefits violated the state’s “Marriage Protection Amendment.”
That amendment was passed in 2004 by voters and defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and disallows the recognition of any other “similar” relationship. The last six words of the amendment — “or similar union for any purpose” — led to a lengthy court battle in the state that ended with the Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that providing same-sex partner benefits violated that provision. As a result, many public employers in the state created other eligible individual insurance programs. The MCSC resolution was based on those programs.
The domestic partner benefits were collectively bargained for during the Granholm administration and written into contracts. Union officials say the proper way to address the issue for the Snyder administration is at the bargaining table this summer — not through a legislative fiat undermining a good faith negotiation and agreement.
Correction: The American Family Association of Michigan did not ask Attorney General Schuette to provide a formal legal opinion on the constitutionality of the domestic partner benefits, as the article originally said; rather, they called on the legislature to ask Schuette to offer such an opinion.
Don't expect a speedy resolution to NFL's labor woes
By Jason La Canfora NFL Network NEW ORLEANS — In the past two weeks, I've been able to travel to sunny locales and spend a considerable amount of time with men directly involved in the ongoing labor unrest. …
What they're saying: NFL lockout Day 11
Roger Goodell: We're planning on having a full season
Even in lockout, Roger Goodell out to enforce NFL's discipline
Like me, you might have been curious as to how the high-profile discussion of climate change in the Freakonomics sequel got tied into a silly claim (see here for discussion) about the reflectivity of solar panels.
I think I’ve discovered the answer, from the unlikely source of a review of a cookbook. Details here.
P.S. To clarify the title above: the “albedo mystery” is not about the reflectivity of solar panels or even the relevance of this reflectivity to energy policy. Rather, the mystery is why the Freakonomics expert wanted to discuss the reflectivity of solar panels in the first place.
One of the many important questions about last week’s UN Security Council Resolution on Libya is what kind of precedent it sets for future multilateral actions. Some fear/hope (depending on one’ normative starting points) that the resolution further strengthens or even reflects the arrival of an evolving norm known as the Responsibility to Protect (or R2P). For pro and con discussions, see here, here, here, and here
My preliminary take on this is that there is little evidence that the existence or strength of the norm was decisive in guiding the bargaining process over the UNSC resolution but that the outcome of the Libyan intervention may have profound consequences for beliefs about what constitutes an appropriate response to (the threat of) excessive force against ones own population. Let me elaborate on both points.
By most accounts, the decisive actors were France and the Arab League. Both the British and the U.S. were in favor of imposing the no-fly zones but both had understandable domestic and international reasons for not wanting to take a leadership role. By all accounts, the Arab League’s request for a no-fly zone was critical in convincing China and Russia to abstain rather than veto a resolution and in persuading the U.S. that it could intervene without further alienating the Arab world. While the Arab league’s decision-making process is clouded in mystery, it surely didn’t hurt that its secretary-general, Amr Moussa, wants to run for President in Egypt on a pro-democracy platform and that most Arab governments face democratic uprisings of their own. I have seen no evidence that there is a genuine shift among Arab leaders towards favoring international intervention in domestic affairs for humanitarian reasons.
In France, there is more rhetoric that mirrors the R2P norms (although, as far as I can tell, rarely explicitly mentioning the doctrine). Yet, all analysis that I have seen stresses the domestic political rationales for Sarkozy in the wake of scandals about the French response to the Tunisian uprisings (leading to the departure of the defense minister) and Sarkozy’s waning domestic popularity. The Guardian has a good English language analysis:
“The French do like to have their president play world statesman,” mused one diplomat in Paris last week, before France’s Mirage and Rafale fighter planes had taken to the skies. “A good crisis,” he added, might be just what Sarkozy needs.
Contrast this with the domestic politics in Germany. Der Spiegel has an interesting interview (English version) with the German Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle in which they ask him in several different ways why the government decided to abstain from the vote and oppose the military actions. The minister replied to each question in the same way: we do not even want to suggest that we are going to use German troops. In his words:
I don’t want us to venture onto a slippery slope that would lead to German troops participating in a war in Libya.
It also doesn’t bode well for the norms argument that none of the three aspiring permanent members on the Council, Germany, Brazil, and India, favored the intervention. One would expect that especially these states should be sensitive to acting in accordance with a strong developing norm. The abstentions of China and Russia are very much in accordance with their past behavior. While they are worried about precedent, they have generally not vetoed actions as long as these do not affect core security interests. This happened long before the term “responsibility to protect” was ever coined (e.g. the Haiti intervention in 1994).
In short, while there will surely be implicit or explicit references to R2P language by the UN Secretary-General and other actors, I don’t see much evidence that the norm itself played much of a role in cobbling together the coalition. This doesn’t mean that the intervention will not have profound consequences for R2P. My reasoning here depends on a different understanding of how norms develop than advocated by most Constructivists in international relations. Constructivists believe that debates in international organizations and elsewhere help states understand what actions are appropriate or inapproriate in international affairs. Once a norm has been accepted by a critical number of states, it can become internalized and may be applied in a routine or habitual (non-reflective) way when deciding upon future actions.
I would argue that there is little evidence that international organizations socialize the representatives of states, let alone states themselves. Moreover, high profile actions such as military intervention are unlikely to become routinized. This doesn’t mean that norms or shared expectations are unimportant. We live in a complex strategic world where expectations and beliefs about what others are likely to do matter greatly. I suspect, however, that these beliefs are more likely shaped by the consequences of actions rather than by rhetoric about them. For example, the relative success of the first Persian Gulf War led states to the expectation that it is the appropriate thing to ask for UN Security Council authorization of military interventions, even though there was no such norm in the 1970s or 1980s. My expectation is that the same will happen here: If the intervention in Libya is successful in avoiding massive civilian casualties and (perhaps) removing Khadaffi from office at low cost to the intervening powers, then this will reinforce the belief that this type of military response can and should be applied to a situation that resembles Libya. I leave the question of whether the development of such a norm would be an unmitigated good to another blog post.
The UN Security Council belatedly came up with a resolution that called for a ceasefire and authorized the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. Pity they weren’t so decisive after Lockerbie…or for that matter, after any number of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians by the ‘Palestinians.’
President Obama defined a very limited American military role, saying the U.S. would help set the stage “for the international community to act together,” ( whatever that might mean) and emphatically ruled out the use of ground troops. He said that the ‘necessary measures’ would be focused on protecting civilians, not regime change.
That of course leaves open the question of why regime change isn’t the objective if the US is going to commit military force against Khaddaffi, but I’m certain the establishment foreign policy mavens have an answer all ready.
Considering how confused and contradictory the early US response was, it’s quite obvious that President Obama would have preferred much to simply vote present on this one. But that made him appear indecisive, which wasn’t so good politically, so he simply attempted to have the best of both worlds – we’ll intervene rhetorically and perhaps with a no fly zone that’s still very much in the planning stages, including a great deal of diplomatic back and forth and uncertainty about whhat kind of military support the Libyan rebels will receive, if any.
A meeting is set for Saturday in Paris attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to attend along with leaders from the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League, and Ban Ki-Moon Secretary General of the U.N. to continue planning and come to an agreement on exactly how to enforce the UN resolution.
The most frequent buzz word is a no fly zone, which itself is going to be an interesting endeavor.
To implement it, the ‘International Community’ would have to start by taking out Libya’s air defenses, mostly Russian-built SA-6 surface-to-air missile sites, and radar installations.
Considering that Col. Khaddaffi has already moved most of his air force in to bases along the Sahara that are beyond the range of carrier-based planes, taking out his air defenses is likely going to involve mid-air refueling under combat conditions, a hairy endeavor at the best of times.
Once the air defenses are taken out, the ‘International Community’s’ planes would start enforcing the no-fly zone and work on preventing Col. Gadhafi’s army from advancing any further into eastern Libya. So far , President Obama trying to mollify his Leftist base by saying that the US will only provide support for those flights, but a senior defense official was quoted as saying off the record that the president hasn’t ruled out using U.S. combat aircraft for enforcement missions. No surprise there!
In fact, I’d be very surprised if the US didn’t provide most of the pilots and planes, rather than support.If,in fact, a no fly zone gets going at all.
Khaddaffi obviously senses the ambivalence and uncertainty.
After the UN Resolution was passed, Khaddaffi’s Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa read a statement in Tripoli stating that a member of the U.N., Libya “is bound to accept the Security Council resolution and has decided an immediate cease-fire and the cessation of all military operations.” He added that the government was willing to enter into “dialogue” with all parties.
The reality? There’s been no ceasefire.Gaddafi’s forces are continuing to shell the western city of Misrata, where 25 people were reported killed on Friday by a doctor in the city. All water has been cut off and the city is under siege and not expected to hold out much longer.
In the east, Khaddaffi’s forces are continuing to advance on the rebel capitol of Benghazi, and there’s very little in the way of resistance before they arrive on the outskirts.
Khaddaffi is obviously going to try and wrap things up on the ground while the ‘International Community’ is still debating its response.
I am about to fly to Montreal for the 2011 International Studies Association conference but I wanted to pass on some quick thoughts on the resolution that the UN Security Council passed last night.
- This resolution does not tell us what type of military action will be taken by whom at what point. There is no UN rapid reaction force that is authorized to do anything. Instead, it provides legitimacy for the military actions that (coalitions of) UN member states may want to undertake. I have some thoughts here on why Security Council resolutions are thought to provide such legitimacy. This legitimacy is especially important for Europeans but it also seems to matter for U.S. public opinion.
- The initiative for the resolution came from the French and the British rather than the U.S. This is somewhat unusual historically but very important. Especially the French do not have a strong track record in humanitarian missions. It also seems like the European Union itself is an important player in the initiative. The EU has traditionally taken a modest profile in matters of international security but they have established some experience (in Kosovo) and capacity in this regard. Especially the British military is well equipped to exercise rescue missions and air raids.
- We can argue about the timing of this and it is unclear whether the resolution is going to be effective but in general I am supportive of this development. The main fear is that Khadaffi will raise the violence to genocidal levels once his troops get to Benghazi. Once evidence of such atrocities comes in, the last thing we need is delicate Security Council negotiations about authorization to do something. States now at the very least have no excuses for standing by. I must admit that I do not have a sufficiently clear picture of the military situation to give a good assessment of how effective air strikes are likely to be in stopping the progress of Khadaffi’s forces to Benghazi but I suspect the people in Benhgazi are better off with than without the resolution. That doesn’t mean I would like to be in their shoes right now.
- David Bosco offers a good analysis of the peculiar usage of abstentions on the security council.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution on the situation in Libya is available online. In summary it authorizes member states to act as required to prevent harm to Libyan civilians, authorizes the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libyan air space, strengthens the arms embargo against Libya, and strengthens the freeze on Libyan assets in foreign banks.
It does not authorize member states to support rebels, defend armed insurgent groups, remove Qaddafi from office, or take steps to prevent Qaddafi’s use of mercenaries.
President Obama has underscored that understanding of the resolution:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is traveling to Paris on Saturday for a meeting with European partners about enforcement of the U.N. resolution, Obama announced.
He pledged that the United States will not deploy ground troops in Libya, “and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians within Libya.”
The emphasis is mine.
If you support U. S. participation in the actions authorized under the resolution on the grounds that it will remove Qaddafi from power, I don’t quite see how you can draw that conclusion from the resolution or from President Obama’s remarks on it.
Top news: Libya’s government has declared an immediate ceasefire, just hours after a U.N. Security Council resolution was passed imposing a no-fly zone over the country. Libya’s Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa said the ceasefire was intended to "protect civilians."
Meanwhile, Britain announced that it would deploy Typhoon and and Tornado fighter jets "in the coming hours" to enforce the no-fly zone. France has also vowed action "soon." NATO surveillance AWACS planes are already providing reconnaissance off the coast of Libya. Britain and France are holding emergency meeting with NATO today to discuss how the no-fly zone will be enforced.
It’s still unclear what role U.S. forces will play in enforcing the no-fly zone. All parties are also insisting that Arab league countries take part in the operations and help pay for them to avoid the appearance of the west attacking a Muslim country.
Japan: Engineers are still trying to fix a power cable in order to restart cooling pumps at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but conceded they may be forced to bury the plant in concrete and sand — the method used following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
- Libya has promised to release four captured New York Times journalists.
- A senior Iranian cleric urged Bahraini protesters to continue fighting.
- Three militants and three soldiers were killed in fighting in Yemen.
- Tanks were deployed in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan following fighting that killed thirty.
- A suspected U.S. drone killed 26 people in Northwest Pakistan.
- DR Congo has rejected a bid from a British oil company to drill in a national park.
- The G7 began a coordinated currency intervention to rescue the ailing yen.
- China has suspended approval for new nuclear power stations.
- A small bomb exploded in Jakarta but no one was injured.
- Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is on his way back to Haiti.
- Venezuela has halted its plans to develop nuclear power in response to the events in Japan.
- Mexico foreign secretary defended allowing U.S. drones to fly over Mexican territory.
- Germany has announced a "measured exit" from nuclear power.
- Former Sarkozy campaign officials rejected accusations that the French president’s presidential run took money from Libya.
- A French judge filed manslaughter charges again Air France in connection with a 2009 crash.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
I’m struggling to develop real convictions about this Libya business. On the one hand, you have everything done right—a UN Security Council resolution, backing from the Arab League and the OIC, and a bad guy who is, loosely speaking, adequately nuts to seemingly put everyone off. Meanwhile Gaddafi was acting yesterday like he was begging for this to happen, explicitly discussing the looming slaughter after he seizes Benghazi and making it hard for anyone to vote no on the resolution.
But it seems absurd to be saying we need a domestic discretionary spending freeze because somehow we’re broke and yet there’s plenty of funds available for a shiny new war in Libya. And it’s a war whose objectives seem hazy. To halt Gaddafi’s advances and de facto partition the country? To chase Gaddafi all the way out? If that happens, does “the Pottery Barn rule” apply and then we need to spend a decade supervising the country’s domestic political conflicts? And why is this humanitarian emergency the one that needs urgent action? What about Saudi and Bahraini forces firing on demonstrators? What about the ongoing civil war in Ivory Coast where the health care system has completely collapsed? I feel like the countries that abstained at the UN—Brazil, India, China, Russia, Germany—mostly got this right, no eagerness to actually undertake a war but no willingness to condemn those who were. At the moment, it’s not really even clear what the United States has committed to do. It’s France and the UK who seem most eager to definitively commit military assets, and as far as I’m concerned the less of a leadership role the US takes in this the better since the endgame seems so murky.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The House Thursday decisively rejected a resolution directing the president to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan this year, but the vote also showed a deep divide in the president’s own party on the war.
The final vote tally was 321 to 93, with 85 Democrats supporting the proposal.
The resolution to draw down all troops by the end of 2011, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is not the congressman’s first effort to end U.S. involvement in the war. But this year it gained more Democratic support, as many in the party voiced their deep concern with the costly and difficult struggle.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure, some citing the need for fiscal discipline, others saying military energy should be directed at greater threats.
Several Democrats, who have spent weeks fending off Republican budget cuts, said their colleagues had overlooked the Afghanistan conflict. Kucinich appealed to conservatives on fiscal grounds during debate Thursday.
“If Congress is serious about being fiscally responsible and about cutting the federal budget by three figures, then cutting spending on the out-of-control, $ 100-billion-a-year war in Afghanistan must be a serious consideration,” Kucinich exhorted fellow members.
“When you guys say ‘deficit’ and ‘debt’, we’re going to say ‘Afghanistan,’” said Rep. Bob Filner, D-California, gesturing towards his Republican colleagues.
Rep. John Duncan, R-Texas, agreed, and supported the proposal.
“There’s nothing fiscally conservative about this war, and I think conservatives should be the people most horrified by this war,” he said. “We turned the Department of Defense into the department of foreign aid.”
Public support for the war is dismal, a fact acknowledged by members on both sides and one which military leaders sought to appease in hearings on Capitol Hill this week.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described seeing progress since taking over operations in the country last June. Petraeus told lawmakers many regions are safer and Afghan troops and law enforcement are taking on a larger role in patrolling the country.
He added that the speedy drawdown advocated in the Kucinich bill would undermine U.S. national security interests.
“The Taliban and al Qaida obviously would trumpet this as a victory, as a success,” he said. “Needless to say, it would completely undermine everything that our troops have fought so much for and sacrificed so much for.”
The defense department expects to transition control of security for the country to Afghan forces by December 2014. Petraeus said he would likely recommend some combat forces be included in the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July.
Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah choked up on the House floor as he read aloud a list of his constituents who had died while serving in the conflict.
“As I’ve talked to each of their parents, they want those rules of engagement changed, and they want to end this war in Afghanistan – with victory,” he said haltingly.
Chaffetz, who supported the bill, took on fellow Republicans like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, over the definition of victory in the conflict. Ros-Lehtinen charged “to withdraw from Afghanistan at this point, before we finish the job, is to pave the way for another 9/11.”
“I reject the notion that bringing our troops home at some point – which I consider a victory – is somehow a pathway or paving a pathway to another 9/11,” Chaffetz responded. “I think that’s offensive. I think that’s inaccurate.”
The few GOP supporters of the bill were far outnumbered by Republicans who said withdrawal would be disastrous.
“I think my colleagues know that I’m very uncomfortable spending taxpayer dollars without a solid justification, and I match my fiscal conservative credentials with anybody in this body,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “But when it comes to national security and when it comes to the care and protection of our troops in harm’s way, we must not be … penny wise and pound foolish.”