Editorial June 5, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

It has been said that the first responsibility of any elected body is the safety and health of the electors and that is most obvious in the US Congress in appropriation bills for defense and national security. Those bills are usually passed first among the bills authorizing or appropriating funds for various agencies of the government and usually with a flurry of urgency due to whatever crisis is looming or underway around the world.

While there are no shortage of such crises there seems to be a shortage of cooperation between the committees (particularly in the House) and the White House and the absence of the cooperation has become the rhetoric about who is not cooperating with whom rather than a productive conversation to iron out differences.

The President proposed that Department of Defense (DoD) spending should be $561 billion for base defense spending and $51 billion for overseas contingencies and that would be based on his advisors who include defense and national security members of his cabinet, his security advisors and others who, we assume, know what they are talking about. The House numbers are $523 billion for base defense spending and $96 billion in war spending and they came mostly from testimony before and debates within the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), its subcommittees, and other committees responsible for national security legislation.

The ‘debate’ over who is cooperating with whom narrows down the matter simplistically for public consumption but leaves out any detailed public discussion the parties should be having on how much is necessary to protect US interest overseas. The US approach to providing air support in the fight against ISIS but no boots on the ground besides military advisors and the reluctance of congressional leaders to respond to the President’s request of authority to use military force comes while expressing a growing urgency to do something about ISIS leaves us with uncertainty ….

The House, through the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chair Mac Thornberry (R-TX) holds that its numbers are right and necessary due to the significant threats posed by ISIS in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and soon Jordan and in Libya and northern Africa, from Boko Haram in Nigeria not to mention the 50 other designated terrorist organizations out there that the US keeps an eye on who are creating havoc or promising to. Yet that same committee has not yet responded proactively to the President’s request for authority to use military force against some of them. The White House recognizes the threat those individuals and organizations present to US interests, has asked for authority to use force, but sees a need for less money to fund such activities.

While the Republicans complain that the President’s Defense budget over-spends the sequester, Democrats argue that the Republican numbers, which are greater than the total the White House proposes, only circumvent the sequester cuts and spend beyond what would be authorized. The House should heed the conclusion Secretary of Defense Ash Carter presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Carter said that “increasing Pentagon spending by putting more money in its overseas contingency fund as “a road to nowhere” because it is a single year fix for a multi-year problem.”  Carter’s conclusion should be well investigated by both sides of this argument but the perspective that the House-passed bill under-funds future efforts against a growing group of significantly funded, well organized, and effective psychotic murders is easily borne out by other military advisor testimony and public statements that fighting ISIS is here to stay at least for a long time.

Perhaps this presentations of differences can continue because the White House and Congress are at ends to figure out what to do about ISIS in particular. The politics of putting troops in the fight is seen as risky politics by both sides due to an American public tired of war and its cost. Add to that the nature of ISIS strategy that seems to produce significant wins or gains in taking territory at the same time its leaders are blown up by US and allied strategic bombing. Finally, there is the concept that the problem, while affecting the national security of many nations, is a Muslim issue that should be decided by the Muslim community. That approach might very well be accurate but it is not a solution because Muslims are not a military force, ISIS is, and reversing the behavior of such an irrational and destructive force is not likely to be accomplished by a discussion of Allah’s intentions.

Congress and the White House need to put 2016 electioneering aside and commit to an effective and flexible strategy, the necessary funds, and the extent to which the US will be involved with allies in containing ISIS until it is ineffective.##

 

Quotes on the Issues

HR 1335 Fisheries Reform

“This bill, however, would roll back a number of those improvements – exposing fish stocks in our nation’s waters to overfishing.  It creates exemptions for annual catch limits for potentially hundreds of species, including some that may be overfished or subject to overfishing; exempts federal fishery management plans from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and changes the definition of “overfished” – making it less likely for a species to be identified as depleted.  Further, it makes a number of other dangerous changes, including the elimination of the requirement that stocks identified as depleted be rebuilt as quickly as possible and allowing “factors outside of fishing” or “unusual events” causing depletion to be cited as a reason to continue to allow overfishing – instead of a reason to stop it. Lastly, the White House has issued a SAP stating that President’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

House Minority Whip Office

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HR 2048 USA Freedom Act –

(The bill was stalled in the Senate but has now moved forward.)

“The whole matter would be moot if the government would adopt an intelligence production process from collection through analysis that was in line with the Constitution — that the technology exists to do just that, even addressing judicial review (not FISA, but regular Article III court) within seconds, thus mooting the Haydens out there who say the regular court review process takes too long. That fact — that the problem is solvable with today’s technology — portrays the existing proponents of keeping Patriot or just modifying it slightly as in Freedom as either incompetent, or possessing hidden agendas, or just not interested in defending the Constitution.” J Kirk Wiebe Former NSA employee, now a whistleblower.

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ISIS

Senator Rand Paul Blames ISIS on Republican Hawks.

US News & World Report

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CNN: Iran hosts anti-ISIS cartoon competition

1000 entries from around the World.

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Fighting ISIS a Long Haul, CIA Director

CBS – CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday that the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will be “a long fight” that requires both a military and political solution.

Senate History

March 11, 1925
The Midday Ride of Charles Dawes

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow celebrated the opening skirmish of the Revolutionary War in his 1860 poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” “On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five;/ Hardly a man is now alive/ Who remembers that famous day and year.” Picking up on Longfellow’s success, another Civil War-era poet, Thomas Read, chronicled the gallop of Union General Philip Sheridan to rally his beleaguered troops. Decades later, in 1925, a United States senator tried his hand at the genre of speeding-horse-poetry. Nebraska Senator George Norris lightly revised “Sheridan’s Ride” into a comic description of a vice president’s frantic journey from Washington’s Willard Hotel to Capitol Hill. It could have been titled “The Midday Ride of Charles Dawes.”

At stake in the March 11, 1925, speeding-car epic was whether the United States Senate, for the first time in its history, would reject a president’s nomination for attorney-general.

Vice President Charles Dawes—a descendant of Paul Revere’s fellow rider William Dawes—had been sworn into office just a week earlier. Known for his colorful expressions, particularly “Hell an’ Maria,” he earnestly entered into his duties as presiding officer. On March 11, having been assured by the leadership that there would be no votes cast that afternoon, Dawes retired to his apartment at the Willard for a nap.

The Senate was debating President Calvin Coolidge’s attorney-general nominee, Charles Warren, but the debate took a decidedly negative turn as Democrats and progressive Republicans attacked Warren’s questionable connections to sugar lobbyists. Fearful that Warren’s support was eroding, the majority leader called for a vote. The tally was expected to be close. A hurried summons went to the Willard.

Up jumped the vice president, who dressed hastily and rushed out to catch a cab. As the taxi lumbered along Pennsylvania Avenue, the Senate vote tally reached 40 to 40. The Republican majority leader desperately stalled for time. Suddenly, through the swinging doors into the chamber burst the disheveled vice president. But, at that moment, the only Democrat to support the nominee rose and changed his vote. Coolidge had lost his attorney-general, 39 to 41.

Victorious Democrats loved Senator Norris’s sardonic reworking of “Sheridan’s Ride.” The final stanza captures its mood.

Hurrah, Hurrah for Dawes!
Hurrah for this high-minded man!
And when his statue is placed on high,
Under the dome of the Capitol sky,
The great senatorial temple of fame—
There with the great General’s name,
Be it said in letters bold and bright,
“Oh, Hell an’ Maria, he has lost us the fight.”