Prohibition.–Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be obligated or expended by the United States government to increase the number of United States forces in Iraq above the number for such forces which existed as of January 9, 2007, without a specific authorization from Congress by law for such an increase.
— From Sen. Edward Kennedy’s bill introduced today. (See Sen. Kennedy’s site, “It’s Not His Decision. It’s Ours,” with a petition you can sign | Full text of the bill | C-Span video/audio | TPM Muckraker‘s story.)
Many, including Senate Foreign Relations chair Joe Biden, have said there’s nothing realistically that Congress can do to stop President Bush from his troop escalation. But Kennedy, in his remarks to the National Press Club today, says:
The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President’s new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.
Today I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President’s plan.
My proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home. The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq.
This bill will give all Americans – from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii – an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President’s speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President’s plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear – yes or no – where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.
Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that. Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.
Many of us felt the authorization to go to war was a grave mistake at the time. I’ve said that my vote against the war in Iraq is the best vote I’ve cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate.
But no matter what any of us thought then, the Iraq War resolution is obviously obsolete today. It authorized a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But there were no WMDs to destroy. It authorized a war with Saddam Hussein. But today, Saddam is no more. It authorized a war because Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. But there was no alliance.
The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq bears no resemblance whatever to the mission authorized by Congress. President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm’s way, without a clear and specific new authorization from Congress.
Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.
… Comparisons from history resonate painfully in today’s debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.
There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.
Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.
As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer. Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.
The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq.
Think Progress blog adds:
FACT CHECK: Congress Has Repeatedly Placed Limits On Military Deployments And Funding
Tomorrow night at 9 p.m. EST, President Bush will address the nation and announce an escalation of the war in Iraq by sending about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Can Congress do anything about it?
Some members have claimed that anything other than symbolic action is unconstitutional. Legal scholars on both the left and the right say that’s false. History supports their case.
A new report from the Center for American Progress details how, over the last 35 years, Congress has passed bills, enacted into law, that capped the size of military deployments, prohibited funding for existing or prospective deployment, and placed limits and conditions on the timing and nature of deployments. Some examples:
December 1970. P.L. 91-652 — Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.
December 1974. P.L. 93-559 — Foreign Assistance Act of 1974. The Congress established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year.
June 1983. P.L. 98-43 — The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983. The Congress required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.
June 1984. P.L. 98-525 — The Defense Authorization Act. The Congress capped the end strength level of United States forces assigned to permanent duty in European NATO countries at 324,400.
November 1993. P.L. 103-139. The Congress limited the use of funding in Somalia for operations of U.S. military personnel only until March 31, 1994, permitting expenditure of funds for the mission thereafter only if the president sought and Congress provided specific authorization.
Read the full report for more examples.
You know the drill. Here’s the direct link to the U.S. Senate Web site. And here’s a link to hearings this week on Iraq, along with contact information for each House and Senate committee holding the hearings.