Should the Unicameral Take a Position on Iraq?by Kyle Michaelis
The New York Times reports:
Frustrated by the inability of Democrats in Congress to pass a resolution opposing President Bush’s policies in Iraq, state legislators across the country, led by Democrats and under pressure from liberal advocacy groups, are pushing forward with their own resolutions.
Resolutions have passed in chambers of three legislatures, in California, Iowa and Vermont....
Letters or resolutions are being drafted in at least 19 other states. The goal is to embarrass Congress into passing its own resolution and to provide cover for Democrats and Republicans looking for concrete evidence back home that anti-Iraq resolutions enjoy popular support.
“The end of this war has to start sometime and somewhere,” the president of the Iowa Senate, John P. Kibbie, a Democrat, said Thursday. “And stopping the expansion of these troops needs to happen now”....
Many Republicans in state legislatures have remained silent on the resolutions, seeing no advantage in signing or voting for them. Others have called the actions essentially votes of no confidence in the troops on the ground.
“These resolutions are a colossal waste of time,” said Kris Kobach, chairman of the Republican Party in Kansas, where a resolution was killed in committee. “Legislatures are spending valuable and limited time acting in an area where they have no authority. If all we are doing is sending messages, we should be concerned about the fact that soldiers are being told that their states are not behind them. I think that is particularly troubling.”
Many resolutions use language from the Progressive States Network that apes language in a proposed resolution in Congress that says President Bush should obtain explicit Congressional approval before adding troops in Iraq.
Other resolutions go further, calling for a deadline for departure, immediate troop withdrawal or stopping the financing of the war. The votes have largely fallen along party lines — Democrats for and Republicans against — although there have been exceptions. In North Dakota, a Democrat and a Republican are sponsoring a resolution urging Congress and Mr. Bush to “disengage American combat forces in Iraq.”
In a vote [last] Thursday in the Iowa Senate, Republicans insisted on a voice vote rather than a roll call on a resolution to condemn the increase in troops. The measure, which passed, is headed to the House, where its fate is uncertain....
In states where Republicans control the legislatures, passage of such antiwar resolutions seems unlikely. Kansas lawmakers held a perfunctory hearing, only to have the committee chairman, Senator Pete Brungardt, Republican of Salina, say he would not schedule a vote.
“A number of people felt that was a rather public vote without an upside,” Mr. Brungardt said. “There is not really a winning answer for them.”
It's interesting that neighboring states such as Iowa, Kansas, and even North Dakota should figure so prominently in these actions. According to the Progressive States Network, Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas also have such resolutions before their state legislatures, provoking public debate and pressure on Congress regardless of their likelihood of passage.
Believe it or not, that leaves Nebraska the only Big XII state in which no such legislation has beeen introduced. Using the model language provided by the Progressive States Network for an Anti-Escalation resolution, it would read:
BE IT RESOLVED, That the state of NEBRASKA, on behalf of its citizens, urges that in a period when the Iraq Study Group, leading military and diplomatic officials and allies around the world are calling for a reduction in troops and withdrawal of the US from Iraq, the United States government should not escalate its involvement in Iraq or increase troop levels; andI'm genuinely curious how readers would feel about Nebraska's Unicameral taking up such a measure. I can't say I'd make it my highest priority, but - with the over-taxing of the National Guard, more than 30 Nebraskans killed, and a reported cost to Nebraska taxpayers of $2.7 billion - it's hard to say with a straight face that the war in Iraq is not a state concern.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That, at a minimum, the President should obtain explicit approval from Congress if he wants to send more American troops to Iraq.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Congress should pass legislation prohibiting the President from spending taxpayer dollars on an escalation in Iraq unless he first seeks Congressional approval.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution shall be sent to George W. Bush, President of the United States, to the Congressional delegation of NEBRASKA, and to the United States Congress.
So, tell me: should the Unicameral be considering a resolution opposing Bush's escalation of the Iraq War? And, in all honesty - in our supposedly non-partisan legislature, on an issue that has become such a partisan lightning rod for politicians and activists - how would you really see such a resolution faring before our state legislature?
Nebraska is home to two U.S. Senators who have played absolutely essential roles in opposing Bush's escalation, including the leading critic from Bush's own party. Yet, we're also home to three Congressmen who couldn't exercise more deference to Presidential authority and the dictates of the Republican Party. With our hypothetical resolution, which of those opposing mindsets wins out in our non-partisan Unicameral?