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Archive for June, 2013

Posted by DownWithTyranny on June 15th, 2013

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

It’s been a dozen years but on Thursday the House finally voted to end the war in Afghanistan. By backing an amendment to a military spending bill, all but 9 Democrats and just over half the Republicans removed House Republicans’ language supporting a post-2014 military presence in Afghanistan and replaced it with a statement that the President should come back to Congress and specifically seek new authorization if he wants to keep troops there after the 2014 deadline.

The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA) and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-WA) and passed 305-121, with 112 Republicans and 9 Democrats voting NO. So which 9 Democrats? Half a dozen reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems, two conservaDems who vote with the New Dems (Bill Enyart and Dutch Ruppersberger) and one confused elderly lady (Corrine Brown). The reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems:

John Barrow (Blue Dog/New Dem-GA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)

It’s worth remembering these names when the DCCC asks you for money because several are on the DCCC Frontline list. That means part of any contribution you make towards the DCCC will go to fund the reelection efforts of pro-war reactionaries John Barrow, Pete Gallego, Jim Matheson, Bill Owens, and Bill Enyart. A better way to contribute to Democrats is give support directly to candidates whose legislative agenda you agree with. Blue America offers a well-vetted bunch of candidates for House seats who would make Congress– and the congressional Democratic Party– better, not worse. Like state Rep. Carl Sciortino, who’s running for the Massachusetts seat Ed Markey is goving up to move over to the Senate.

“My father served in Vietnam,” he told us this morning. “My brother and close friends served in Afghanistan and Iraq. An entire generation has been asked to serve in two wars, and then told “good luck paying for them.” This is an issue that is close to my heart. I am glad to see a majority of Congress voting to support this combat mission coming to a close.

“Just because there is progress on ending the Afghanistan conflict, it does not excuse the members who voted for misguided hawkish policies over the past decade. The time when we really needed a principled vote was in fall of 2002– when we could have stopped a war we already knew was unnecessary. It’s easy to vote to end a war long after its popularity has faded. Remember, 82 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to authorize the war in Iraq, instead of standing with our principles and leading. We needed members of Congress to stand up and demonstrate to the American people that the War in Iraq was completely unnecessary– instead of folding and becoming pawns of the Bush foreign policy doctrine.”

Blue America is well aware that Carl and other other House candidates will be congressmembers who do stand up– and not just against bad ideas from Republican presidents, but against bad ideas from Democratic presidents as well. That’s why we’re asking our supporters to consider contributing to Carl and the other Blue America candidates.

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 15th, 2013

From our partners at Peace Action West

Last night, we saw years of committed organizing pay off, with the House of Representatives voting 305-121 supporting accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. Thank you so much to all of you who responded to our calls to action and put the pressure on Congress that made this victory possible!

We now have both houses of Congress on record in support of withdrawal, thanks to Sen. Merkley’s amendment last year. The New York Times called the vote a “stark example of changing sentiments on Afghanistan” and pointed out that it received more Republican votes than anything Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) has ever offered on the floor.

The strong statement made by this vote comes at a critical time, as the administration will soon make decisions about the post-2014 troop presence in Afghanistan. We thank all our allies in Congress who helped make this victory possible, including Reps. McGovern, Lee (D-CA), Jones (R-NC), Garamendi (D-CA) and Smith (D-WA).

The rest of the NDAA votes were not nearly so glorious, though the House laid down some important markers in ongoing debates about Pentagon spending and policy. As I wrote yesterday, many of the amendments we supported were blocked from coming to the floor. Some highlights of the votes that came up:

Budget

  • In what should seem like a no-brainer, Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Mulvaney (R-SC) and Bentivolio (R-MI) offered an amendment to reduce the required number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10—the number the navy currently has. Despite the common sense nature of this push for flexibility, the House voted it down, 106-318.
  • The House passed the buck on sequestration, passing a bill more than $50 billion higher than the caps. Only 71 representatives voted for Rep. Nolan’s (D-MN) amendment to reduce the budget by 9.4%.
  • The House Armed Services Committee added an extra $5 billion to the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which funds the war in Afghanistan. An amendment to remove that additional funding failed, 191-232.
  • We are still spending huge amounts of money keeping troops stationed in Europe. The bipartisan Colorado team of Reps. Polis (D) and Coffman (R) joined Blumenauer (D-OR) and Griffith (R-VA) to offer an amendment to remove about 5,000 troops. It received 110 votes.

Iran

  • In a voice vote, the House approved an amendment stating that nothing in the bill could be construed as authorizing military force in Iran. Reiterating this is key as we watch results from the Iranian election and face more pressure for military action against Iran from some corners.
  • The House echoed the Senate in passing counterproductive language that encourages support for an Israeli attack on Iran. It was passed en bloc (when many amendments are combined together and voted on as a package).

Counterterrorism

  • The House approved an amendment, offered by Republican Rep. Broun (GA), prohibiting targeting US citizens with drones unless they are actively engaged in combat against the US. This appears more stringent than the standards revealed in the little public information about the targeted killing program. It will be interesting to see if and how the Senate takes up this topic in their version of the NDAA.
  • Unfortunately, there was no vote allowed on either amendment to sunset the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan, which has been used to justify strikes around the world. However, there are two freestanding bills on the topic, and this gives us time to build support for them and educate members of Congress leading up to future votes.
  • Not surprisingly given Republican rhetoric on the issue, the House rejected an amendment to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility 174-249. They also approved an amendment prohibiting funding for transferring detainees to Yemen, a crucial step in closing the facility, 236-188.
  • They also rejected an amendment to change a troubling policy in the FY12 NDAA allowing indefinite detention of people detained under authority of the Authorization for Use of Military Force in the US or its territories, 200-226.

While some of these numbers might not seem particularly encouraging, they provide us important information about which members we need to bring around on these issues, so we can educate them and put pressure from their districts. There was a time when you could hardly scrounge up people to vote against the war in Afghanistan, and we blew expectations out of the water on that vote yesterday. There is much work left to be done, but we have a strong foundation for success.

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Posted by Peace Action West on June 13th, 2013

From our partners at Peace Action West

UPDATE: The amendments crossed out below were not allowed to come to the floor for a vote.

The House will start voting tomorrow on the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending levels for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons programs. Since this is one of the only bills that comes to the floor on these issues, it’s a big opportunity to address peace priorities. Nearly three hundred amendments were filed, addressing everything from sexual assault in the military to immigration to same-sex marriage.

Thousands of you have already contacted your representatives urging them to vote to cut wasteful spending. We are working closely with allies in the peace and security community and Congress to advance our agenda. We’re watching the proposed amendments closely, and sending representatives recommendations. We’re still waiting to hear what amendments will be allowed on the floor, but here are a few highlights of the amendments we’ll be watching:

THE BUDGET

  • Audit the Pentagon The government’s largest agency can’t even pass an audit. Reps. Lee, Burgess and Schakowsky have an amendment that decreases DOD funding by 0.5% (excluding personnel and health program accounts) unless financial statements from the previous year are certified as auditable and meeting generally accepted accounting principles
  • Removing troops from Europe It’s a waste of money to keep tens of thousands of troops in Europe. This bipartisan amendment would bring some of them home.
  • Cutting the missile defense boondoggle Reduces funding by $107 million for advanced procurement for major equipment for the Missile Defense Agency; reduces funding by $140.4 million for ballistic missile defense mid-course segment
  • Scaling back the Pentagon budget The budget being considered is $52 billion above the sequester caps that Congress passed into law and proceeded to ignore. Rep. Nolan’s amendment would cut the budget by 9.4%.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

  • Bomb worth its weight in gold The Life Extension Program for the B61 nuclear bomb keeps growing in cost; it’s now estimated at $10 billion. That huge amount of money is to refurbish weapons stationed in Europe, when many in NATO countries don’t even want them there. This amendment holds funding the program pending a report on NATO’s role in basing and funding the program.

COUNTERTERRORISM

  • Undoing indefinite detention Reps. Smith and Gibson are offering this amendment to change troubling provisions that allow indefinite military detention of any person detained in the US, its territories or possessions.
  • Closing Guantanamo Rep. Adam Smith’s amendment provides a framework to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by December 31, 2014.
  • Repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) The AUMF has been used by the administration to justify targeted killings of suspected terrorists around the globe. There are two amendments offered that would sunset the AUMF at the end of next year, following the scheduled end of the war in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN

  • Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan Last year, Republicans blocked a vote on an amendment supporting an end to the war in Afghanistan, convinced that it would pass. Reps. McGovern, Jones, Smith and Garamendi have teamed up again to bring this up for a vote.

IRAN

SYRIA

  • Caution in arming the Syrian opposition There’s been a lot of talk lately about the dangerous proposition of arming opposition fighters in Afghanistan, despite security and human rights concerns. This amendment prohibits the use of funds from assisting the armed combatants in Syria without prior authorization by Congress.
  • No ground troops in Syria This amendment prevents funds from being used to deploy, establish, or maintain the presence of troops or contractors on the ground in Syria unless the purpose is to rescue of a member of the Armed Forces from imminent danger.

Keep an eye on the blog for updates on the votes, and check your inbox Thursday morning for action alerts. You can start now by calling your representative at 877-429-0678 (toll free number provided by our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation)  with how you’d like her/him to vote on this year’s NDAA.

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