Congresspeak: The Language of Impotence

The House of Representatives would be better off speaking Arabic. See if you can make heads or tails of this.

The House voted down a bill to end the Libya War.

At the same time, it passed a nonbinding House-only resolution that said the President “shall not” use ground troops in Libya, the war is unauthorized, and Congress could defund the war if it wanted to. The resolution requested that all kinds of information be reported to Congress by the President, much of which has not been reported by the specified deadline.

Next, the House passed an amendment blocking any funds, beginning in October, for troops or contractors on the ground in Libya.

At the same time, the House passed an amendment requiring that when the war is completed (and presumably the U.S. has control of Tripoli), the U.S. troops on the ground there must dig up the bodies of other U.S. troops buried there during a war 206 years ago.

Also at the same time, the House defeated an amendment that would have stripped out language dramatically expanding presidents’ power to launch wars — language eventually removed by the Senate.

Then the House rejected an amendment to a Homeland Security bill blocking use of its funds for wars waged in violation of the War Powers Resolution, passed the same amendment to a Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, and finally passed the same amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act, which kicks in in October. While that amendment may sound particularly meaningless, it might actually benefit a court case in which 10 members of Congress have sued the President to stop the war, on the grounds of its clear violation of the War Powers Resolution.

Then the House voted down an authorization of war in Libya.

At the same time, the House also voted down a proposal to limit the funding of that war to certain types of activities.

In the latest installment of this saga, the House has rejected an amendment that would have defunded the Libya War beginning in October.

At the same time, the House again has passed an amendment defunding ground troops.

At the same time, the House has passed an amendment to prohibit the use of funds for the Department of Defense to assist any group or individual (such as the Libyan rebels) not part of a country’s armed forces for the purpose of assisting that group or individual in carrying out military activities in or against Libya. The author of this amendment claims to have defunded the Libya War (as of October, if the Senate agrees, if the President doesn’t signing-statement it, etc.).

Also at the same time, the House has rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the use of funds to support military operations, including NATO or United Nations operations, in Libya or in Libya’s airspace.

And, just to make sure this is all fully meaningless, the House also rejected an amendment that would have removed the slush fund that allows presidents to fund wars without Congress. The House then proceeded to pass, yet again, a bigger military spending bill than last year.

So, the Libya War is unauthorized and has never been funded with a dime by Congress, but Congress does not object to this — unless perhaps it does.

Only it doesn’t really. If the House (the Senate is hopeless) objected, it would simply enforce existing laws. The War Powers Resolution — despite the President’s claim that bombing people’s houses is not “hostilities” — is actually crystal clear in comparison with recent Congressional communications. That law has been violated. The House could unambiguously block funding for this illegal war or impeach its architect. Nobody currently believes it will do any more than push the envelope of pretended war opposition, even to the point of confusing people as to what it’s up to.

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