As I reported Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, used personal privilege today to force his bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney to the House floor, despite House Democratic leaders’ wishes that it die a quiet death in committee.
But, sensing an opportunity to embarass Pelosi and Hoyer, scores of Republicans suddenly voted against tabling the measure — twice as many as the Democrats actually supporting Kucinich’s stance — in an attempt to force a floor debate on impeaching Cheney! Eager to avoid that, Hoyer then moved to refer the bill to the House Judiciary Committee; that vote passed 218-194, with ALL Bay Area Democrats in favor. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the next Democratic caucus meeting…
The bill Kucinich brought forth today was basically the same as that which he’d introduced back in April, charging that Cheney lied to America about reasons for invading Iraq and now is doing the same with Iran. But because House Democrats couldn’t see eye to eye today, the bill brought them far more grief than it’ll ever bring Cheney.
A CodePink protestor rushed at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this morning as she arrived to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East; note how chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, went to grab the protestor, Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz, even as Rice’s bodyguards hurried forward to grab the woman and drag her out.
Lantos ordered the other CodePink protestors tossed from the room too; Capitol Police say three people were arrested.
Jeez, y’all, it’s not like there’s a WAR going on or anything…
Yes, the House on Wednesday resolved to praise the patriotism Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and to condemn MoveOn.org’s full-page ad in the New York Times this month referring to Petraeus as “General Betray Us.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, quickly fired off an e-mail accusing 11 Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — including chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, of “flip-flopping” (man, is that phrase NEVER going to fade away?) on the resolution, having voted against it in committee shortly before voting for it on the House floor.
But that doesn’t quite pass the smell test. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., had raised the Petraeus/MoveOn issue during a committee discussion on a bill about raising penalties against people who aid terrorism, the International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act; the committee voted 23-13 that under House rules, the Pence amendment simply had nothing to do with the bill at hand. On the House floor a short while later, the Petraeus/MoveOn resolution was attached to a continuing appropriations bill — something entirely different.
Boehner also took a moment to potshot “those 79 Democrats who voted to condone the tactics of the radical, left-wing organization” in the floor vote — including Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, George Miller, Zoe Lofgren, Lynn Woolsey and Mike Honda. And later Wednesday, MoveOn apparently sent this message to its members in districts of House members who voted for the resolution:
They didn’t condemn Vice President Cheney when he falsely connected Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.
They didn’t condemn Colin Powell when he lied about WMD to the United Nations.
They didn’t condemn President Bush when he started eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant.
They didn’t condemn President Bush and the Republicans when they attacked Sen. John Kerry’s war record.
They didn’t condemn Sen. Saxby Chambliss when he ran ads comparing triple-amputee and war hero Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden.
They still haven’t done enough to slow this dreadful war or protect our troops.
But a few hours ago, your representative voted in the House to join the Senate in condemning a MoveOn.org newspaper ad.
Enough. Can you call Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher—tell her to stop voting on useless resolutions and force an end to the war?
I agree. It’s enough — from ALL of ’em. Enough about the ad.
“To win the war against international terrorism, we must stop frittering away our resources –military, diplomatic, and economic — on an endless religious war in Iraq,” he said. “With its TV ads, the President’s address, and every other available means, the Administration is pulling out all the stops to make the case to ‘stay the course’ for an endless war in Iraq.”
Perhaps recapping some of his opening statement from Monday’s Petraeus hearing, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, will deliver the Democrats’ nationwide weekly radio address this weekend. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, asked him Wednesday to speak to the nation about Iraq on Democrats’ behalf this Saturday, two days after President Bush is scheduled to discuss the war. The weekly address is distributed by ABC Radio to its affiliates — in the Bay Area, KGO-AM/810 and KSFO-AM/560 — and to others for their use in whole or in part; it’ll be available in its entirety on C-SPAN radio and on the Democratic Party’s Web site. And there’ll be a transcript right here on this blog, as soon as it airs.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who chairs the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, gave the Democratic Radio Address on Aug. 11, discussing her H.R. 3159, which would require longer rest periods for troops between Iraq deployments. It passed the House on Aug. 2 with a 229-194 vote, but it appears to have stalled out in the Senate and the White House has threatened to veto it. You can read a transcript or hear her speech here.
Here are some excerpts from the opening statement of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, delivered moments ago as his committee and the House Armed Services Committee jointly prepared to hear testimony on progress in Iraq – or the lack thereof – from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker:
“Every single one of us wants you to succeed in your efforts to the maximum possible extent.”
“The administration’s myopic policies in Iraq have created a fiasco… We cannot take any of this administration’s assertions on Iraq at face value anymore.”
“The administration has sent you here today to convince the members of these two committees and the congress that victory is at hand. With all due respect to you, I must say, I don’t buy it.”
“Prime Minister Maliki has not shown the slightest inclination to move in the direction of compromise. Instead of working to build national institutions – a truly Iraqi army, a competent bureaucracy, a nonsectarian police force – Maliki has moved in the opposite direction. … (M)aliki has functioned as the frontman for Shi’ite partisans… This is not what the American people had in mind.”
“America should not be in the business of arming, training and funding both sides of a religious civil war in Iraq.”
“The cost of this war in Iraq will be passed along to our granchildren and beyond.”
“We need to send Maliki’s government a strong message, loud and clear. Removing a brigade is nothing but a political whisper, and it is unacceptable to the American people and a majority of the Congress.”
“Military progress without political progress is meaningless.”
“The situation in Iraq cries out for a dramatic change of course. We need to get out of Iraq for that country’s sake and for our own. It is time to go, and go now.”
“Some will prefer to criticize the GAO’s methodology rather than face the harsh realities of this protracted civil war. But the Administration’s own recently-released National Intelligence Estimate is as scathing as what we will hear today. Our intelligence community predicts that insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high over the next year, that political reconciliation will remain elusive, and that the Iraqi government will become ever more precarious. So it’s not just the GAO handing out failing grades -– the Administration’s own non-political experts are every bit as critical,” he said.
“The long-awaited Administration report next week will undoubtedly say sectarian violence is declining. It is not,” he added. “In a desperate effort to show the surge is working, the Administration has attempted to cook the books by excluding large numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties from its estimates, arguing that only certain types of deaths are due to ‘sectarian’ violence. But the families of the dead know better than to write them off that way.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, told me yesterday that he believes the forthcoming Government Accountability Office report on political and military progress in Iraq will be “scathing.” Sure enough, the Washington Post reports today that the “strikingly negative” GAO draft — which will be sent in its final form to Congress next week for a hearing by Lantos’ committee — finds “Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, today notes President Bush “is demanding tens of billions more dollars for the war in Iraq despite non-partisan conclusions, such as the draft GAO report and the recent National Intelligence Estimate, that the Iraqi government has failed to achieve required reforms.
“As in the past, President Bush stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the facts on the ground about the sectarian civil war in Iraq or the growing bipartisan opposition to his failed policies,” she said. “He insists that our soldiers sacrifice even more, and taxpayers spend billions more dollars for an Iraqi government incapable or unwilling to institute reforms required by the President himself.
“With the President continuing to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans will have to decide whether they will continue to vote with him or join Democrats and the vast majority of Americans who are demanding a new direction in Iraq and refocusing America’s efforts on fighting the real threats of terrorism around the world.”
BTW, I asked Lantos yesterday what he would say to the 80 or so protestors who took part in an antiwar vigil Tuesday night outside his district office at Fourth Street and El Camino Real in San Mateo, one of many of such vigils held across the nation that night, organized by MoveOn.org and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.
“This is not an unfriendly presence, they are welcome, but I think it’s important for them to understand that members of Congress operate within the reality of the American government’s framework,” he replied.
“Both Nancy (Pelosi) and I have basically supported the same general direction that they are asking for, namely a de-escalation in contrast to the administration’s policy of escalation,” Lantos said. “But the last piece of legislation on this subject that the Democratic leadership sent to the White House was vetoed by the president, and he has a sufficient number of Republicans to sustain his veto.”
Given that, the only options are either to win over enough votes to override the veto or to replace the President, he said, “but camping in front of Nancy Pelosi’s house will not bring about a U.S. policy change” — a dig at the CodePink protesters who staked out Pelosi’s San Francisco home and district office in recent weeks.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, a few minutes ago told me he believes “it’s good for America that he resigned. The evidence is rather compelling that he lied to the American people and to the Congress about torture, about wiretapping, and about the firing of U.S. attorneys… It was a real disservice to public service to have this man leading the Department of Justice.”
Miller said he’s not thrilled by rumors that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff might be tapped to replace Gonzales; DHS has plenty of problems of its own, and would be ill-served by yet another change in leadership, he said.
“They have to think about a career person, clearly somebody with a dedication to the principles of the Department of Justice and high ethical standards – that’s what they haven’t had here during Mr. Gonzales’ reign,” Miller said, adding the nominee will face the Senate’s careful scrutiny. “This person will come in after Alberto Gonzales’ horribly unethical reign, so there’s a tough burden on any nominee… If this is a person who’s there to serve the political purposes of the president, I think they are in for trouble.”
Nobody’s mincing words today…
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo: “I have long called for the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales, and to say this resignation is long overdue is the understatement of the year. Former Attorney General Gonzales has consistently chipped away at the very Constitution he was charged with protecting. The most fundamental rights afforded to American citizens were to Mr. Gonzales mere roadblocks to be pushed aside in his quest to consolidate power in the executive branch.
“From warrantless wiretapping to politically-motivated firings in the Justice Department, Mr. Gonzales has run the gamut of serious violations of Americans’ most basic and precious rights. I am especially concerned about the legacy his leniency on torture will leave as we continue to fight against terrorism and extremism worldwide. His resignation presents this Administration with an opportunity to reverse some of its disastrous policies on human rights and civil liberties. I urge the President to quickly appoint a fair-minded Attorney General who will take seriously his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”