Let’s the get obvious out of the way. Apparently, the GOP does not understand the meaning of the word “unconstitutional.” Yesterday, Judge Katharine Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the indefinite detention clause in last year’s defense spending bill was unconstitutional. Today, the House not only passed identical language in the new bill, it rejected an amendment to remove the language from the bill. For a party that keeps insisting the President Obama (who renounced this clause in his signing statement in December) is the one with no respect for the Constitution, the passage of this clause again is the height of hypocrisy. UNCONSTITUTIONAL guys. Simple word. It means no-no, violates our rights, is unlawful, is bloody fascist. Last time, the GOP’s paid media – Fox News and talk radio – ignored the signing statement and portrayed the clause as the President’s fault and showed that he had no regard for constitutional rights, was trying to turn us into a communist nation. This time they don’t get away with it because the opposition to the clause was from Tea Partiers as well as Democrats.
Then, there’s the equally unconstitutionally, but not ruled upon – yet – clauses that limit the executive branches ability to negotiate treaties. Such treaties cannot be limited before they are negotiated. The Senate and only the Senate has the power to refuse to ratify a treaty. But that didn’t stop the House GOP from including a couple of clauses in the bill designed to usurp executive branch powers in international matters.
First, they included a clause prohibiting the President from making any “unilateral reductions” in America’s nuclear forces. This is in opposition to the letter and intent of the nuclear treaties this nation has been signing since Ronald Reagan negotiated the first START treaty. The “justification” for this clause was expressed by Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio who fussed and fumed over “the secret deal the president has with the Russians to weaken our missile defense,” a reference to a comment made to former Russian President Dimitri Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” to discuss nuclear issues after the election. The White House had even written to Turner on April 13 to assure him that “We have been clear that we will not agree to any constraints limiting the development or deployment of United States missile defenses,” but, hey, saying that the Prez is secretly colluding with the Russkies is good politics in the right wing.
Second, they rejected an amendment backed by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the whole business community to back the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty. The Chamber supports the treaty, which the Senate’s Democrats are prepared to ratify, “because it would provide clear legal rights and protections to American businesses to transit, lay undersea cables, and take advantage of the vast natural resources in and under the oceans off the U. S. coasts and around the world.” The treaty is also backed by the Defense Department. But some in the GOP believe it would infringe on U. S. sovereignty.
Finally, there’s the money…..
Last year, the House Republicans agreed to a program of deficit reduction including across-the-board spending cuts. The lack of a further deal will trigger even greater spread-the-pain cuts. But the Republican Party is determined to go down in history for breaking its word. Instead of going with the even cuts, they have decided to cut $80 billion from social programs and give it to the Defense Department and then increase defense spending even more. The defense spending bill totally ignores the spending requests from the Defense Department, breaks the deal reached last year and restores funding for things the Defense Department doesn’t want or need. It’s a total f-you to the executive branch. To keep their facetious “spending cuts to match spending” pledge, they proposed eliminating funding for Meals on Wheels for house-bound seniors and health care programs for women. Can we hear again how they are not waging war on women, or on the poor and elderly?
The Republicans know that this will not get past the Senate and that the President has promised to veto it outright this time. An appropriations bill for the Defense Department needs to be passed by mid-September, or we will see battles over continuing resolutions to extend current levels of spending indefinitely. These clauses, and the unpassed amendments are deal breakers with the White House and Senate Democrats and set the battle lines for any attempt at reconciliation with the Senate.
But the Republicans must feel they have something to gain from them in the election, though I can’t see it. They have passed a clause that is already ruled unconstitutional, broken the pledge of reducing government spending, defied the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and risked the millions the Chamber is willing to spend on ads for Republicans, and shown themselves to have no respect for the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution. They have handed the Democrats some powerful talking points in the election. Now, the question is whether or not the Democrats will take advantage of them.