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|Your Government at Work
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 11/30/07
The Democratic Congress no doubt believes that it was elected with a mandate to end the war in Iraq. A majority of voters may have actually had that purpose in mind also, but the fact is, the legislative branch can neither prosecute nor end a war. The constitution wisely gave that authority to the president. Otherwise, we would be fighting wars by committee and losing them. Congress does, however, control the purse strings, giving it the power to engage in all manner of mischief.
Congress can, for example, cut off war funding but surely even members of Congress are smart enough to realize that such action would be political suicide, what with troops on the ground, fighting a war on a sort of pay-as-you-go basis. Or perhaps not since it may be impossible to over estimate the capability of this Congress to do things that are not smart.
J.F. Kelly, Jr.
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive
who writes on current events and military subjects.
He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
President George W. Bush, approaching the eighth year of his tumultuous presidency, finally found his veto pen and vetoed a $606 billion bill to fund health, education and labor programs. The bill was dear to the hearts of Democrats, who in their unbridled enthusiasm for it, inflated it by about $10 billion beyond what the president had asked for. Perhaps the timing was just coincidental, but congressional Democrats appeared to react by proclaiming that no more funds for the war would be authorized without a timetable for ending it.
The House then passed a defense bill authorizing funds conditioned upon the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2008. This exercise in futility was an attempt to appease the party’s anti-war base. They knew it had no chance of success because the president had already vowed to veto any bill with a mandatory timetable for ending the war. They passed it anyway because “Bush’s war” is not their war; their war is with the president.
Actually, the Senate saved Mr. Bush the trouble by rejecting the bill, albeit narrowly. The Congress then did what it does best. It went on vacation, declaring that there would be no defense bill at all until next year. The administration could just move funds around as necessary to cover defense expenditures until Congress jolly well got around to preparing a new bill.
Aside from being an outrageous attempt by the legislative branch to micromanage a war, this is a dangerous and reckless tactic. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the resulting funding constraints might necessitate the laying off of some civilian employees of the Department of Defense and the cancellation of some defense contracts. Using the power of the purse to end a conflict that Congress no longer approves of will simply not achieve its intended purpose. Instead, it is likely to generate a powerful backlash as the public blames Congress for failing to support the troops.
It has become apparent that this Congress will do almost anything in its power to thwart any attempt by Mr. Bush to accomplish anything in his remaining year in office that would reflect favorably on his administration. So great is its preoccupation with attacking Bush and campaigning for the 2008 elections that it has little time for anything else. That means no significant action on any of the pressing domestic problems the nation faces including illegal immigration, Americans without health insurance, Medicare and Social Security, to mention only a few. With the election still a year away, the focus is on making Republican officeholders look bad.
This is a huge disservice to the public. A year is a terrible thing to waste. There are too many urgent problems facing the nation to devote this much time to political warfare. A huge part of the problem is the excessive time devoted by members of Congress to campaigning and the length of the election campaign itself. The candidates have been going at it since early this year. It has already turned ugly and we still have another year left. Meanwhile, little is getting done in Washington.
It is evident from the low approval ratings that the public is sick of gridlock and the abrogation of duty on the part of its elected officials in Washington. By the time November rolls around, the mood of the voters may turn ugly, too. In their frustration with incumbents of both parties, they may look instead for independent, fresh candidates with new ideas, open minds and a willingness to compromise in order to get something done. CRO
2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.