S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Congress and the war in the Middle East

(stories from Newsgator Online- see title link above)
What is Congress doing right now about the war in Iraq and related issues? Analysts see a growing number of Republicans beginning to listen to their own constituents' negative opinions. Republican legislators are no longer unquestioning of their President. In particular Senator Richard Lugar's change of heart seems to have caught the attention of lots of Congress watchers. CNN Politics has a a good analysis of what this might mean, headlined: "Senators' dissent over Iraq might trigger a different surge" (6/27/07) -
Story Highlights:
• Two notable Republican senators ask President Bush to change course on Iraq
• Analysts say prominent senators' opinions could sway others
• CNN/Opinion Research poll shows GOP support for war at all-time low
• Observers say to expect more defections as Iraq report, elections near
. . . Two respected senior GOP senators this week publicly asked the president to look for a way out of Iraq. One of them -- Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana -- is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

. . . Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, is jumping straight to what he calls Plan "E" for "Exit."

. . . The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, are to issue a report in September on what impact Bush's surge of troops into the war is having. Analysts say that report will be pivotal on both the country's and Congress' outlook on the war.

. . . This week, Republican congressmen Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Frank Wolf of Virginia are calling to reconvene the ISG to review Iraq policy and offer new recommendations.
Congressional oversight is also in play this week. Democrats and perhaps many Repuublicans voting in the 2006 elections decried the failure of their Congress to conduct any oversight of the White House during and after the war in Iraq was started. Congress has been very busy holding hearings on a wide range of issues since the start of the year. And, fortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are looking in a bipartisan way at the one of the most vital issues facing the nation - that of illegal spying on American citizens. The Financial Times (6/28/07) reports that,
The probe is part of a growing range of congressional investigations against the Bush administration since the Democrats seized control of Capitol Hill in January, creating the impression of a White House under siege.

While Democrats are leading the push for information about the domestic surveillance programme, the three most senior Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee also voted in favour of issuing the subpoenas.

. . . The bipartisan nature of the investigation reflects unease in both parties about the Bush administration’s aggressive use of executive power and its heavy influence over the Justice Department.
Further subpoena info - Senator Leahy has been very focused on the issues surrounding domestic surveillance since news of the program's existence emerged last winter. (See my previous South by Southwest post [11/26/06] on the subject, "Spooks, spies - eyes and ears in the skies.") This very tough and effective Committee Chair's current efforts focus on the role of office of the Vice President and of the Justice Department. "Senate subpoenas WHouse documents in spying probe," Reuters reports (6/27/07). To quote,
A Senate chairman heading an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program subpoenaed documents on Wednesday from the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the National Security Council and Justice Department.

Setting up a possible courtroom showdown, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy gave the administration until July 18 to turn over specified materials that the White House last week declared off limits and highly classified.

. . . Leahy's panel, on a bipartisan vote of 13-3, authorized the subpoenas last week in another attempt to determine the administration's legal justification for warrantless surveillance begun shortly after the September 11 attacks.

. . . Bush and Democrats are at odds over revisions he wants in the FISA law, and some lawmakers question if the administration has actually ceased warrantless surveillance.
Untruthful testimony? The White House has come under a great deal of fire from this Congress because of failures of the United States Department of Justice. There has been more smoke than fire, in my opinion, in the U.S. Attorney scandal. I believe that Congress wasted a great deal of effort with those hearings, though there is still potenial for further investigation into the Attorney General's lack of truthfulness in his committee testimony. In a current vein, Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin are "seeking a probe of a Bush judge," according to a (6/27/07) Reuters story.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Wednesday sought a federal investigation into whether a White House lawyer turned appeals court judge testified truthfully to Congress about the Bush administration's detention policies for enemy combatants.

. . . On Tuesday, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin asked Kavanaugh to explain apparent discrepancies between his testimony and reports that he participated in a 2002 White House meeting about the detainee policies.
We look to the September deadline - Congress is not on hold until General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker make their reports to the nation on the progress of the Iraq war in September. The Senate is right now attempting for the second time to pass immigration reform legislation, a very tough challenge. The next big effort to change the direction of the war will come up with pending legislative authorizations for war spending. The Washington Post had the story (on May 25) detailing plans for next steps. It seems that Congress will be facing the best chance for making an impact by cutting off funding for the war. To quote from the story,
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, announced that he will remove Iraq war funding from the 2008 Pentagon spending bill that is expected to reach the House floor in July. Instead, Murtha said he will bring up a separate Iraq funding bill in September, when Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to deliver a key status report to Congress.
  1. Senator Luger's floor speech - transcript
  2. "Democratic Accomplishments in Face of Obstructionism"
  3. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont - official web site
  4. Senate Judiciary Committee - Subpoenaes - C-SPAN
  5. - Federal Legislative Branch
Cross-posted at The Reaction
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