Friday, February 23, 2007

Should the Unicameral Take a Position on Iraq?

by Kyle Michaelis
Seriously, what do you think?

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; and

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.
I'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.

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?

Please discuss.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Can we? I don't think there's any way to introduce any new resolutions or bills after the first 10 days of the session.

I actually don't really see the point in doing it, though. 1) it wouldn't pass. 2) I don't like bringing national politics into local politics. I'm one of the strongest anti-war folks around here, and I just don't see the point in doing anything like this.

Anonymous Queen of the Legislature said...

FYI...Rule # 4
yes the legislature can introduce resolutions up to the 80th day. Statnding Committee's can introduce resolutions (usually interim studies) up to adjournment sine die.
No it wouldn't the legislature is too busy debating wolf dogs and puppy mills today

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

According to the Rules of the Nebraska Legislature:

Resolutions which propose amendments to the state constitution, propose the ratification or rejection of amendments to the federal Constitution, or memorialize the Congress with regard to amendments to the U.S. Constitution, shall be considered and adopted in the same manner as bills.

This resolution does none of the above. I believe it can then be introduced throughout the session - or, at least, until the 80th day. In practical effect, it is completely non-binding and no different than the resolution introduced yesterday by Sen. Bill Avery celebrating a kid's becoming an Eagle Scout.

Maybe a better example is Sen. Don Preister's resolution calling for recognition of "Rachel Carson Day" on May 27th, on which environmentally-conscious citizens would abstain from using pesticides and consider alternative methods of pest management.

As stated in the article, I'm not really pushing for an anti-Escalation resolution. But, whatever happened to all politics is local? I would have expected more from such a grassroots/netroots hero as yourself, Mr. Sund.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

True, but a non-binding resolution coming from the state legislature has even less impact than a non-binding resolution coming from the Congress. The people have their voice in foreign affairs through Congress. I'd rather that the unicameral focus on the domestic problems we're facing here in Nebraska.

I realize you're not advocating this. This is just one of those things that I don't think state legislatures should get involved in.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Only hours after this article was posted, Luke Peterson - an intern for the Nebraska Democratic Party - answered my question in the affirmative with a post on the NDP's "Blog for Nebraska." Check it out:

Unicameral Should Engage in Iraq Debate

Luke writes:

I believe that such an opportunity would send a clear message to Congress and to our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush Administration has failed not only them but the American people. If the Unicameral was to take up the issue, then quite possibly the President would realize that he is going about the Iraq war the wrong way. After all, Nebraska is one of the few states in the nation that gives Bush higher approval ratings; to disagree with him would make the resolution relevant!

So fellow Nebraskans – Republican, Democrat, Independent or other, let us urge our respective state senators in the Unicameral to debate such a resolution.

A slightly different perspective. Anyone else care to comment?


Post a Comment

<< Home