By David Swanson
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today, Wednesday, December 16th, on a war funding bill that will pay for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Nobody will tell you that. They’ll tell you it’s a “defense” bill, and that a small part of it — a mere $130 billion — is for wars (which therefore have something to do with “defense”). They’ll tell you the $130 billion was approved in June before the announcement of an escalation by the president. They’ll tell you that another bill will have to be passed in the spring to pay for the escalation. And they will be lying, or as we have to say in the post-Bush era: knowingly lying.
Not a single member of Congress has any doubt that the money they are giving final approval to today will be used to massively escalate a war opposed by the majority of Americans. Nor will most of them have any hesitation, come spring, in arguing that they cannot possibly vote No on funding for an escalation that has already, in good part, happened. Others will vote yes, now and in the spring, as long as something else is included in the same bill that they can claim they need to support. Others will insist on being given the opportunity to vote No, as long as they are assured that the No votes cannot possibly prevail. That’s the most common position of members of the progressive caucus, none of whom are whipping their colleagues to vote No today.
There is a whip list recording commitments, from Democrats and a surprising number of Republicans, to vote No on war money, now and in the future, at http://defundwar.org But for the most part, activist groups are taking the same approach as congress members: keep quiet today, let the escalation be funded and take place, and then insist on defunding it after the fact in the spring. Our motto should be: Don’t act now, It’s not too late yet.
It’s not yet too late to block bad healthcare legislation that has as much to do with caring for health as wars have to do with defending anyone. The House has already passed a bill that strengthens a predatory system guaranteed to continue increasing costs and decreasing coverage. The Senate is considering legislation that does the same without some minor cosmetics applied to improve the look of the House bill. Finally, voices are coming out against the Senate bill, but not yet against the House bill as well.
Some activists are holding out hope that the House bill is somehow better than nothing. Others are so focused on national single-payer that they won’t even fight for states’ right to create single-payer systems, much less pay attention to the non-single-payer bills that might actually pass. And when I say that groups won’t pay attention, I mean that they will neither support nor oppose legislation that makes healthcare worse, because they are too busy trying to explain to everyone that healthcare should be made better.
Unfortunately our only chance of decent healthcare reform any time soon must begin with House members committing to voting No on bills like those now under consideration. Of course, a sufficient number of them have already committed to voting No, but most of those congress members nonetheless voted Yes already and can be expected to do so again unless we demand that they keep their word.
I’m hopeful that a lot more people will demand this soon. If we’re lucky, enough of them will resist the temptation to refrain from acting until it’s too late. Winning a No vote against the odds takes months of concerted effort. Beginning that effort in the final days before the vote is a pretense, not a serious attempt at all.