Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ray of hope: stop war on Iran before it starts

Since early January, two bills in the House that would forbid military action against Iran without a vote in Congress have been gathering support:

H.J.RES.14, by Walter Jones (R-NC). (Yes, the 'Freedom Fries' guy!)
H.CON.RES.33, by Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

Each has 30 or more cosponsors; Jones' bill even has some other Republicans signed on. (For the text of the bills, co-sponsor information, etc., search the bill numbers in Thomas and the new OpenCongress site.)

Two weeks ago, Jim Webb introduced a similar bill in the Senate, S.759. It has teeth because it forbids any spending on a military attack on Iran without a Congressional vote. Harry Reid expressed support for Webb's bill a few days before its introduction.

Webb hoped it could be attached to the Pentagon supplemental when that reaches the Senate, but is also willing to fight for it as a standalone bill if need be. Well, needs be, because Pelosi allowed no-attack-on-Iran-without-a-vote language to be stripped from the House version of the supplemental after objections from AIPAC-influenced members. To soften the blow for antiwar Dems, Pelosi reportedly has "privately" agreed to introduce a standalone bill that would accomplish the same thing.

If that happens, good; presumably a Pelosi bill would match Webb's closely. But if the Speaker drags her feet, as I'm betting she will, there's no need to wait around. Get your Representative onto either the Jones or DeFazio bill, and your Senators onto Webb's.

In April, another carrier (probably the Nimitz) will head to the Persian Gulf, ostensibly to relieve the Eisenhower. For several weeks, that will create a situation in which four three carriers are in a position to support airstrikes on Iran. This ain't no disco, this ain't no party; this ain't no foolin' around.

For arguments, inspiration, and information:

Webb's compelling floor speech on March 5, introducing S.759.

My thoughts of a year ago, which have not become outdated.

A recent full-page ad in the Washington Post by MoveOn and Physicians for Social Responsibility (.pdf)

Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution, who has been on this more steadily than most. The discussion in comments about what kinds of arguments to make is worthwhile (even if I do say so myself).



At 10:11 AM, March 22, 2007, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Question: could Webb's language be attached to the Senate supplemental Iraq appropriations bill and then included in the final bill in conference?

Theoretically, I mean. My thinking is that it's not a spending measure so much as a *no* spending measure, so maybe the language doesn't have to originate in the House. I guess Webb and his staff would have thought of that too if it were true, so either I'm (likely) wrong somewhere, or it's a political decision.

Now I'll go over to Tiny Revolution and read what you and Jonathan say there.

At 10:38 AM, March 22, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

I'm pretty sure the answer to your question is 'yes': Bills that forbid spending money for X can originate in either chamber; it's only bills that are part of the budget & appropriations process that have to start in the House.

The Senate version of the supplemental was marked up yesterday, and it includes the 'withdrawal' language of Reid's H.J.Res.9, the bill on which a highly symbolic vote was held last week.

If there were any political momentum for attaching Webb's bill to the supplemental, it would have happened during markup. Theoretically, the Rules Committee could allow it to be attached as an amendment when the Senate votes on the supplemental.

As a practical political matter, though, I don't think that's going to happen.

Antiwar lobbyists assess that there are not enough votes currently to pass the Webb bill (standalone or attached to the supplemental), which I find horrifying but not entirely surprising.

For instance, which way would Sen. Clinton vote? She's a big fan of executive authority -- not to the megalomaniacal extent of Cheney and Bush, perhaps, but well beyond what I think is suitable for a republic.

Also, the most heavily AIPAC-influenced Senators among Democrats seem unable to separate the substance of the Iran issue from the Constitutional powers issue -- or at least they face donors and constituents who won't separate them. Those Senators are very reluctant to be put on the record.

I'm thinking of Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, among others. And Joe Biden. Boxer and Biden are on the Foreign Relations Committee with Webb, where the bill would start as a standalone. Biden's the chair; his attitude is crucial to the bill's future, and I'm assuming it's not enthusiastic. I could be wrong.

At 7:29 PM, March 22, 2007, Blogger Gary Farber said...

"For several weeks, that will create a situation in which four carriers are in a position to support airstrikes on Iran."

Four? Could you name them, and what your source is, and also what leads you to say that these four carriers will all be staying in the gulf for "several weeks," as a fact, is, please?

(Note: I'm not challenging you; I'm simply unaware of such facts, and I'm missing your provision of any source for this information; apologies if I'm just overlooking it.)


At 10:02 AM, March 23, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

dSure, that's a challenge, Gary; relax and own it.

I'll change the post to three carriers, because what I'd read earlier about the Ronald Reagan, currently tooling around Asian ports, is not panning out.

Two carriers, the Eisenhower and the Stennis, are currently in the Persian Gulf. Plans were announced in late February for the Stennis to move to the Arabian Sea in the near future, and in fact it may already be there: an ejected pilot from the Stennis was fished out of the Arabian Sea a few days ago. The Nimitz is scheduled to leave San Diego next week. Ostensibly, that would be to relieve the Eisenhower.

But the Eisenhower has two more months left on its deployment. It takes about three weeks to get to the Gulf. So, from mid-to-late April onwards, the three carrier groups will be in position to support attacks on Iran. More than enough to have a war with.

The fourth carrier is the Ronald Reagan, which is on a tour of the Asian ports to take the place of the Stennis. I had read earlier that its tour would have it in Hong Kong around now, close to the point where it could cut through to the Arabian Sea. But in fact, the tour is going in the opposite direction: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea.

At 4:32 PM, March 25, 2007, Blogger selise said...

"To soften the blow for antiwar Dems, Pelosi reportedly has "privately" agreed to introduce a standalone bill that would accomplish the same thing."

my rep, jim mcgovern, confirmed to me yesterday that he has pelosi's promise that there will be a stand alone vote on the iran bill.

we shall see... but, i was glad to have more than "reports"

At 11:27 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

Thanks for that update, selise.

The situation we're in as spring unfurls in our "land of the free" feels like a line from a poem that has stayed with me for the last thirty years:

There is a cyclone fence between
ourselves and the slaughter and behind it
we hover in a calm protected world like
netted fish, exactly like netted fish.

'Ourselves or Nothing', Carolyn Forche


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