Monday, July 11, 2011

House Progressives Defeat Libyan War Amendment

As House Democrats wring their hands over the President’s Austerity Budget with all its severe consequences, recent votes on the 2012 Defense Department Appropriation (HR 2219) may be indicative of whether activist Democrats outside the Beltway and the American public in general can count on House progressives when the chips are down.  The $649 Billion spending bill funds the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $119 billion with no line item for US presence in Libya questioning how the $1 billion expenditure by September will be paid.      

The 2009 health care debate over a public option is a sorry reminder of how the Progressive Caucus swore up-and-down, signed letters and issued press releases that never, no-how no-way, would they ever accept health care legislation without some form of a public option and we all know how well that went.  That earlier cave-in on principle does not auger well for the upcoming pressure to slice America’s favorite safety nets perhaps to the bone.   

Enter the Defense Department spending bill with assorted amendments to cut funds for Obama’s Wars with a handful of votes indicative of which Members care about the dot-to-dot connection between budget austerity in favor of funding never-ending wars in the Middle East.   This is not rocket science requiring a great deal of intellectual or analytical ability but is simply a hint at whether Progressives in the House of Representatives still have any principles intact or still value the Constitution.        

Two sample votes include Rep. Barbara Lee’s  (CA) amendment to cut $30 B from military operations in Afghanistan lost on a 97 – 320 vote with 94 Democrats voting No.   Next up was Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA) amendment which would have cut $20 B from the Pentagon for  Afghanistan which lost on a 133 to 295 vote with 70 Democrats voting No.

Clearly even if all those opposing Democrats switched their votes to Aye, both Lee (Roll Call #502) and Garamendi’s (Roll Call # 503) Amendments would have been defeated.  It is, however, instructive to examine how certain Democrats voted.  With a membership of 74,  four Progressive Caucus Members including Reps. Brown (FL),  Kaptur (OH),  Carson (Ind.) and  McDermott (Wash)  all voted against both Lee and Garamendi while Caucus Members Reps. Roybal-Allard (Ca), Johnson (Ga), Loebsack (Ia), Lujan (NM), Maloney (NY), Moran (Va) voted only against Lee.  . 
The final amendment presented by Reps. Amash (R- Mich) and Kucinich (OH) to cut US military intervention in Libya lost on a 199 to 229 vote with 123 Democrats voting to continue military operations with only 67 Democrats voting to pull the plug in Libya. (Roll call #514)  This amendment which, by inference, challenged Presidential authority to wage war without Congressional approval was regarded as the most significant of the day and if the following  Progressive Democrats had switched their votes, the Amendment would have passed.  At stake, however, was the choice between damaging a Presidential ego or affirming the Constitution.  So now we know which is more important.       

On this vote, 29 Progressive Caucus Democrats voted against the Amendment that would have denied US funds for continued military action in Libya were Reps.  
Chu (Ca),  Cohen (Tenn),  McDermott (Wash), Moran (Va), Stark (Ca), Roybal-Allard (Ca), Rush (Ill),     Watt (NC), Welch (Vt.), Brown (Fl), Schakowsky (Ill.), Brady (Pa), Loebsack (Ia), Sanchez Linda (Ca),  Johnson (Tx), Fattah (Pa), Hirono (Ha), Filner (Ca), Ellison (Minn), DeLauro (Conn), Polis (Co), Blumenauer (Ore), Pallone (NJ),  Thompson (Miss), Wilson  (Fl), Olver (Mass), Jackson-Lee (Tx), Bass (Ca) and Johnson (Ga)
On Final Passage (Roll Call # 532), 112 Democrats (including 18 Progressive Caucus Members) joined with Republicans to approve more war spending in the face of massive economic cataclysm at home on a final vote of 336 – 87 (75 Dems and 12 Rs).  Progressive Caucus members voting to fund HR 2219 included Reps.

Fattah (Pa),  Kaptur (Oh), Moran (Va), Johnson (Tx), Loebsack (Ia), Edwards (Md), Conyers (Mich),  Cummings (Md),  Ricbardson (Ca), Rangel (NY), Clay (Mo), Carson (Ind), Slaughter (NY), Brown (Fl),  Roybal-Allard (Ca),  DeLauro (Conn), Waters (Ca) and Thompson (Ms)   

It is worth remembering that it was the Caucus that had the initiative to produce a true People's Budget which was a viable alternative to what Obama or the Republicans have been offering - yet was not taken seriously by the White House or Biden's negotiating group or the mainstream media.  Perhaps it is time for the Caucus which should be on the front lines in defense against the onslaught to step back and reconsider what is progressive about the Progressive Caucus. 
The aforementioned votes reinforce the anxiety that the Caucus cannot be trusted to protect the Big Three social safety net issues or even minor social programs from the chopping block.  These Progressives need to be reminded that they were not elected to walk on anti-war votes, that they are counted on to be in the forefront of fighting for progressive issues without a need to monitor each vote. As the mainstream media rarely reports these details and the Democratic Party presents an increasingly narrow range of candidates, Progressive Members function with the comfort that their voting record remains obscure.   

House of Representatives Progressive Caucus membership

To check Congressional votes

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