Friday, February 16, 2007

Congress Getting Down To Business Over Iraq War

It looks like it is going to be today for the House Iraq resolution, and Saturday for the Senate bill.

The issue of Iraq roiled both sides of the Capitol yesterday. The House concluded three days of debate and prepared to vote this afternoon on a nonbinding resolution opposing the deployment of additional troops to Iraq, while affirming Congress's support for "the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq." ...

When the House floated its text, Senate Democratic leaders quickly latched on to it, believing Republicans would find it harder to block because of its relatively brief, straightforward language and strong support of U.S. troops.

"On the one hand they have their president, and on the other hand they have their constituencies," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "They're diametrically opposed to one another. And now they can't duck it anymore."

Also, the extent of the power that Congress holds in determining the conduct of war beyond that of the purse is becoming an issue now that there is oversight being exercised over U.S. actions in Iraq.

As (former Assistant Attorney General Walter) Dellinger suggested, there is little question among most scholars that Congress has ample constitutional authority to shut down the war. "I am not aware of a serious dispute over whether it is constitutional for Congress to defund or otherwise terminate the war in Iraq," said Brad Berenson, who was in the White House counsel's office from 2001 to 2003. "The big debate is over whether it is wise."

Indeed, some Republicans seem to be baiting the Democrats to try to defund the war. John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who became well known for his expansive assertions of presidential authority, co-wrote a piece in the New York Times this week suggesting Congress has all the power it wants to stop the war but is engaging in "bluster" with nonbinding resolutions.

Dellinger said he is baffled by such arguments. "Although it does not become law, how can it possibly be considered meaningless for each house of the Congress to exercise the view in a formal recorded vote that a planned addition to U.S. forces is a mistake?" he said. "I think that the framers of the Constitution would be astonished that a president would proceed to increase U.S. involvement in a foreign war over the expressed objection of both houses of Congress."

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