Congress voted recently to adopt the $82 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief Act to help cover the costs of these three perversely linked items during the current fiscal year (2005), which ends September 30.
“The Act provides funds for ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and selected other international activities,” the President said, and promptly signed the legislation (May 11) the day after the Senate adopted it.
The executive branch shall construe subsection 1025(d) of the Act, which purports to determine the command relationships among certain elements of the U.S. Navy forces, as advisory, as any other construction would conflict with the President’s constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.
Provisions of the Act, such as sections 2104 and 6024, purport to require congressional committee approval prior to certain obligations or expenditures of funds appropriated by the Act. The executive branch shall construe such provisions to require only prior notification to congressional committees, as any other construction would be contrary to the constitutional principles set forth by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1983 in INS v. Chadha.
Section 6025 purports to regulate the content of the President’s annual budget submission, which is a proposal for enactment of legislation to appropriate funds. In addition, section 301 calls for submission of legislative recommendations by an executive branch official to the Congress. The executive branch shall construe these and any other similar provisions in a manner consistent with the Constitution’s commitment to the President of exclusive authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.
Several provisions of the Act, including sections 6041, 6042, 6043, 6052, 6053, 6069, 6070, 6071, and 6072 make specified changes in statements of managers of the House Senate conference committees that accompanied various bills reported from conference that ultimately became laws. As with other committee materials, statements of managers accompanying a conference report do not have the force of law. Accordingly, although changes to these statements are directed by the terms of the Act, the statements themselves are not legally binding.
GEORGE W. BUSH
A terse statement, to say the least. Translating the President’s words into a language that is a little more familiar:
Face it: Within the U.S. system of government, the Executive Branch is a tyranny. And in this tyranny, I, the Tyrant in Chief, am The Law. The Legislative Branch may purport to place certain constraints upon me, and request that I do suchandsuch things. But, so what? I shall take whatever the Legislative Branch says however I deem fit to take it, as taking it any other way simply won’t do. In the cases at hand, I’ll let you know. But don’t call me. I’ll call you.
Despite its already wordy title, the complete title of the several working drafts of the bill the President signed—which by all appearances was drafted inside the Executive Branch, and only then handed-off to the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations in early March—was even longer, and included the revealing phrase “for other purposes.” As in for purposes other than “defense,” for purposes other than the “Global War on Terror,” and for purposes other than relief for the victims of last December’s Indian Ocean tsunami. (Though even these so-called tsunami-relief appropriations deserve to be scrutinized closely.)
For other purposes is the ultimate supplemental category, if you think about it. Like “Communism” was during most of the 20th Century—particularly in the years between the mid-1940s and the late 1980s. Like “Terrorism” is today. And like all of the other open-ended, zero-morphemic categories of The Enemy against which Americans must unite to defend the Good Things in this world, the Homeland included. Much as the “War on Drugs” (e.g., the U.S. invasion of Panama; the permanent U.S. military buildup in Colombia) and “Humanitarian Intervention” (e.g., the U.S.-led NATO-bloc wars over the former Yugoslavia; the permanent U.S. and NATO-bloc expansion into Central and Eastern Europe; and even the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, after the “War on Weapons of Mass Destruction” went up in smoke) were during the years in-between the Global War on Communism and the Global War on Terror.
(Quick aside. In place of the Global War on Terror, try imagining a Global War on Human Rights Abuses. Or, if you prefer greater nuance, how about a Global War on Ethnic Cleansing, a Global War on Systematic Rape, a Global War on Crimes Against Humanity, and even a Global War on Genocide? (Now if only last November we could have elected Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, and driven those Neo-Cons back into the mountains where they came from. Along with their Global War on Terror.))
Presumably, the for-other-purposes category exists so that a terribly distorted and, indeed, perverted political culture can tack on supplemental items as the need arises—real or imaginary. Additional “bunker-buster” bombs to be dropped on Iran’s nuclear facilities, perhaps, along with more money for the White House’s office of “public diplomacy,” the better to educate the Iranians about the American commitment to bringing democracy to their land? Or maybe some black-budget-dollars to continue building upon the partnership between American “intelligence” and the regime in Khartoum, the latter now considered a “friend” of the regime in Washington, as the Los Angeles Times reported in late April, while Congress continues to express its sense that the regime in Khartoum is committing “genocide” in the western Darfur states of the Sudan?
On May 6, the House of Representatives voted 368 in favor to 58 against to adopt the For-Other-Purposes Act. (With six members not voting. And one responding “Present” (Matsui).) Likewise the Senate. But in the Senate on May 10, the vote was 100 in favor to Zero against. These two votes confirming once again—as if additional corroboration were necessary—that on questions of war and peace and American Power, the political culture isn’t totalitarian. Not quite yet. Anyway.
(Yes, my fellow Illinoisans: Both of our State’s Democratic Senators, Richard Durbin and Barack Obama, cast YEA votes on the For-Other-Purposes Act. And as the Washington Post was to report: “The overwhelming vote and the desultory debate over the mounting cost of the war in Iraq belied concerns that the war is taking a toll on both the U.S. Treasury and the military’s efforts to retool for the future. For fiscal 2005, the Pentagon has now been allocated about $100 billion for war costs, 45 percent more than last year. That total is nearly 30 percent of the $350 billion deficit the federal government is projected to run this year.” (“Congress Approves $82 Billion for Wars,” Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray, May 11.))
According to the vote-breakdown provided by the Clerk of the House, 3 Republican Representatives (Coble, Duncan, and Paul) joined 54 Democrats and one Independent (Bernie Sanders of Vermont) in a vote against these “emergency” supplemental appropriations.
Neil Abercrombie (HI, Dem)
Tammy Baldwin (WI, Dem)
Xavier Becerra (CA, Dem)
Earl Blumenauer (OR, Dem)
Michael Capuano (MA, Dem)
Julia Carson (IN, Dem)
William Clay (MO, Dem)
Howard Coble (NC, Rep)
John Conyers (MI, Dem)
Danny Davis (IL, Dem)
William Delahunt (MA, Dem)
John Duncan (TN, Rep)
Sam Farr (CA, Dem)
Bob Filner (CA, Dem)
Barney Frank (MA, Dem)
Bart Gordon (TN, Dem)
Raúl Grijalva (AZ,Dem)
Luis Gutierrez (IL, Dem)
Maurice Hinchey (NY, Dem)
Rush Holt (NJ, Dem)
Michael Honda (CA, Dem)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX, Dem)
Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH, Dem)
Dennis Kucinich (OH, Dem)
Barbara Lee (CA, Dem)
John Lewis (GA, Dem)
Carolyn Maloney (NY, Dem)
Edward Markey (MA, Dem)
Betty McCollum (MN, Dem)
Jim McDermott (WA, Dem)
James McGovern (MA, Dem)
Cynthia McKinney (GA, Dem)
Martin Meehan (MA, Dem)
Gregory Meeks (NY,Dem)
Miller, George (CA, Dem)
Grace Napolitano (CA, Dem)
James Oberstar (MN, Dem)
John Olver (MA, Dem)
Major Owens (NY, Dem)
Frank Pallone (NJ, Dem)
Ed Pastor (AZ, Dem)
Ron Paul (TX, Rep)
Donald Payne (NJ, Dem)
Charles Rangel (NY, Dem)
Linda Sánchez (CA, Dem)
Bernie Sanders (VT, Independent)
Jan Schakowsky (IL, Dem)
Jose Serrano (NY, Dem)
Pete Stark (CA, Dem)
Mike Thompson (CA, Dem)
John Tierney (MA,Dem)
Edolphus Towns (NY, Dem)
Nydia Velázquez (NY, Dem)
Maxine Waters (CA, Dem)
Melvin Watt (NC, Dem)
Anthony Weiner (NY, Dem)
Robert Wexler (FL, Dem)
Lynn Woolsey (CA, Dem)
What this means is that of the 535 members of the 109th Congress, only one-in-ten used his/her vote to say NO to the Executive Branch’s Global War on Everything and the For-Other-Purposes Act—and none of them Senators. Rather than using the fabled “Power of the Purse” (or “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law” (Art. I, Sect. 9)) to scale back the Executive Branch’s war efforts in foreign lands such as Afghanistan and Iraq and who knows where next, the Legislative Branch voted to keep right on feeding it. Instead of fighting to regain its unambiguous constitutional prerogatives “To declare War,” “To raise and support Armies,” and “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof” (Art. I, Sect. 8—compare the musings of the Tyrant in Chief quoted at the outset), the 109th Congress fell to its knees.
As Marjorie Cohn pointed out in a recent commentary (“Close Guantanamo Prison,” May 23), the Senate on April 13 also “rejected Democratic Senator Robert Byrd’s proposal to delete funding for the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The Byrd Amendment “would have stripped HR 1268 of $36 million earmarked for construction of a permanent, 220-person military prison at Guantanamo,” Cohn explained. “Opponents of the amendment said a new prison would keep detainees from being transferred to the United States, where terrorists might seek to free them.”
Many Republican opponents of Byrd’s amendment are those who strive to destroy the time-honored filibuster in order to appease their right-wing Christian base. Some, such as Pat Robertson, would put independent judges in the same category as terrorists. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Robertson affirmed that judges who don’t share his Christian values are a more serious threat to us than Al Qaeda.
It is not just Republican senators who voted against de-funding a permanent prison at Guantanamo Bay. Seventeen Democrats, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, joined all Republicans senators except Arlen Specter in supporting the new prison construction.
Although Democratic senators are currently waging a valiant battle to preserve the independence of the judiciary, many have wilted in the face of Bush’s conflating of the war in Iraq with his “war on terror.” They are afraid to stand up to him, demand that we save thousands of lives by pulling out of Iraq, and vote to bring a halt to the disgrace that is, in the words of the National Lawyers Guild and the American Association of Jurists, a veritable “concentration camp” at Guantanamo Bay.
According to the Senate website’s breakdown of the April 13 vote, the 27 Senators who voted in favor the Byrd Amendment (i.e., who voted against funding the construction of a new prison facility at Guantanamo) were:
Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Max Baucus (MT, Dem)
Joseph Biden (DE, Dem)
Barbara Boxer (CA, Dem)
Robert Byrd (WV, Dem)
Thomas Carper (DE, Dem)
Byron Dorgan (ND, Dem)
Russell Feingold (WI, Dem)
Dianne Feinstein (CA, Dem)
Tom Harkin (IA, Dem)
Daniel Inouye (HI, Dem)
James Jeffords (VT, Independent)
Tim Johnson (SD, Dem)
Herb Kohl (WI, Dem)
Frank Lautenberg (NJ, Dem)
Patrick Leahy (VT, Dem)
Carl Levin (MI, Dem)
Blanche Lincoln (AR, Dem)
Barbara Mikulski (MD, Dem)
Mark Pryor (AR, Dem)
Jack Reed (RI, Dem)
Harry Reid (NV, Dem)
John Rockefeller (D-WV)
Paul Sarbanes (MD, Dem)
Arlen Specter (PA, Rep)
Debbie Stabenow (MI, Dem)
Ron Wyden (OR, Dem)
(Yes, my fellow Illinoisans: Both of our State’s Democratic Senators, Richard Durbin and Barack Obama, cast NAY votes on the Byrd Amendment to cut off funding for a new and improved detention and torture center at Guantanamo, the esteemed junior Senator in particular intent on preserving his “presidential timber” intact.)
In rejecting the Byrd Amendment 71 against to 27 in favor (and 2 not voting), seven-in-ten Senators embraced the tyranny that beats at the center of the American political system—and therefore at the center of the world’s as well.
And but a fraction of our elected representatives in Congress will stand up to the Tyrant.
November 2006 isn’t as far away as it may appear.
Nor for that matter November 2008.
Postscript (May 30): If the “Global War on Terror” ever loses its propagandistic appeal, or if the Quran-idolatrists among the ACLU and Amnesty International succeed in their efforts at weakening our Homeland’s defenses, perhaps the regime in Washington could launch a Global War on Sexual Predators instead? (Having already launched one domestically, don’t forget. And having enlisted in the cause the Church of the Traumatized Americans—which, in terms of sheer numbers, is the single largest denomination in the States today. And still growing.)
And if, perchance, the regime in Washington ever does take up a new crusade against Sexual Predators globally, what percentage of the American Left do you suppose will enlist in it? Using the performance of the American Left during the 1990s’ Wars of Humanitarian Intervention as the basis for your estimate, do you suppose it will be closer to 10 percent? Closer to 50 percent? Or closer to 90 percent?
And, before I let you go, one last question: How long do you suppose it will take before Harvard’s Carr Center on Human Rights Policy offers new post-graduate studies in the Global War on Sexual Predators among in its Program Areas?
National Predator Report (“Be Aware. Be Alert. Be Safe.”)
Prepared remarks of the Atorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the National Press Club, U.S. Department of Justice, May 20, 2005
“Justice Department Plans Registry of Sex Offenders,” Dan Eggen, Washington Post, May 21, 2005
Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, U.S. Government Printing Office, May, 2005
President’s Statement on H.R. 1268, White House Office of the Press Secretary, May 11, 2005
Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha et al., U.S. Supreme Court, June 23, 1983 (462 U.S. 919)
Senate Amendment 367 to H.R. 1268 (i.e., to deny $36 million in military funds to be used to construct Camp 6 Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba), Senator Robert Byrd (Sponsor), April 13, 2005 (Rejected April 13, 2005)
“Pentagon reports Israeli request to buy ‘bunker buster’ bombs,” Staff, Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2005
“Official Pariah Sudan Valuable to America’s War on Terrorism,” Ken Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2005 (as accessed via the Global Policy Forum)
“Congress Approves Financing For Military and Immigration,” David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, May 11, 2005 [see below]
“Congress Adopts Restriction On Treatment of Detainees,” Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, May 11, 2005 [also see below]
“Congress Approves $82 Billion for Wars,” Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray, Washington Post, May 11, 2005 [also see below]
“‘Emergency’ End Run,” Editorial, Washington Post, May 13, 2005 [also see below]
“Senate Panel Approves Pentagon Spending Bill,” Renae Merle, Washington Post, May 13, 2005
“House Bill Would Provide $45B More for War,” Liz Sidoti, Associated Press, May 24, 2005
“Close Guantanamo Prison,” Marjorie Cohn, Truthout, May 23, 2005
Postscript (November 29): For more on this creeping—and sometimes galloping—American Tyranny, see:
“Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Surveillance Activity,” Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 27, 2005
To lift one little passage from this important report, Big Government statists within the U.S. establishment want the government to be big enough and powerful enough to use “leading edge information technologies and data harvesting,” which involves “exploiting commercial data” harvested with the help of Corporate America, to spy on you and to spy on me in the hope of catching somebody in the commission of, or in preparation for, allegedly treasonous acts—where what is treasonous ought to be understood in the same open-ended sense as, say, the “War on Terror,” with its “unlawful enemy combatants,” and its permanent detentions without the constitutional protections of habeas corpus-type rights, on the grounds that the American President has declared that the United States is engaged in a new kind of war, that Soandso is an unlawful enemy combatant in this new war, and therefore that neither constitutional nor international protections apply. Period.
For two other analyses of the American Tyranny, see:
As Adam Liptak reported:
“The term ‘enemy combatant,’ ” according to a Defense Department order last year, includes anyone “part of or supporting Taliban or Al Qaeda forces or associated forces.”
In a hearing in December in a case brought by detainees imprisoned in the naval facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a judge questioned a Justice Department official about the limits of that definition. The official, Brian D. Boyle, said the hostilities in question were global and might continue for generations.
The judge, Joyce Hens Green of the Federal District Court in Washington, asked a series of hypothetical questions about who might be detained as an enemy combatant under the government’s definition.
What about “a little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization that helps orphans in Afghanistan but really is a front to finance Al Qaeda activities?” she asked.
And what about a resident of Dublin “who teaches English to the son of a person the C.I.A. knows to be a member of Al Qaeda?”
And “what about a Wall Street Journal reporter, working in Afghanistan, who knows the exact location of Osama bin Laden but does not reveal it to the United States government in order to protect her source?”
Mr. Boyle said the military had the power to detain all three people as enemy combatants.
Always remember the scare tactics that accompany repressive campaigns: The combined notions that the hostilities are global, and that the hostilities will last for generations.
Therefore we need to grant the Tyrant the limitless powers he demands over us in order to protect us from harm.
“The Tyrant in Chief,” ZNet, May 25, 2005
…must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime…, ZNet, June 19, 2005
“The Very Definition of Tyranny,” ZNet, June 20, 2005
“Super Predator,” ZNet, October 7, 2005
FYA (“For your archives”): I’m depositing here four items relevant to the adoption of the For Other Purposes Act of 2005.
The New York Times
May 11, 2005 Wednesday
Late Edition – Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 5; National Desk; Pg. 16
HEADLINE: Congress Approves Financing For Military and Immigration
BYLINE: By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, May 10
The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass a bill that included $82 billion for supplemental military spending as well as several immigration and border security measures that had provoked fierce debate in Congress that is likely to continue for months.
The nature of the bill, mainly providing support for American troops overseas that President Bush had requested, made it all but politically impossible to oppose in its final form.
”Our brave men and women in uniform will not relent in their fight against terror, and we must not relent in our support of them,” Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said. ”I’m glad that the House and Senate were able to move so swiftly on this legislation.”
Before voting to approve the measure, Democrats complained one last time about the use of an ”emergency supplemental” bill to pay for potentially foreseeable military expenses and accomplish a variety of other things Congress wanted.
”Having this supplemental, unfortunately with the big title of emergency over it, appears to be an effort to rush things through to avoid Congressional oversight and scrutiny,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said in the brief debate over the bill.
The most contentious aspects of the bill were a set of immigration measures sponsored by Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. and attached by the House, which he argued would make it harder for foreign terrorists to operate in the United States. Those include provisions, known as the Real ID Act, which will require states to check the citizenship or legal residence status of any applicant for a driver’s license, imposing new costs on state governments and requiring more paperwork for drivers.
The bill also overrides environmental rules that have impeded the construction of a barrier intended to deter illegal immigrants along the Mexican border near San Diego. A third provision would make it harder for immigrants to gain amnesty by making claims of persecution or human rights violations abroad.
The amnesty provision drew heavy criticism from religious and human rights groups who argued that it could harm genuine victims who failed to make their case effectively enough. Republicans senators persuaded the House and Senate conference to loosen its language.
Aides involved in the negotiations said the bill had been modified to ensure asylum-seekers a right to appeal immigration decisions. The measure was also changed to say that immigration officials ”should consider the totality of factors” in evaluating an applicant’s credibility to allow for traumatized asylum seekers’ making inconsistent statements.
One Democrat, Representative Robert Wexler of Florida, faulted his party as not fighting harder to oppose the measures.
”I am baffled that so many Democrats caved in to the parliamentary tricks of the Republican leadership,” Mr. Wexler said.
Partly in response to the legislation, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began a ”justice for immigrants” campaign on Tuesday.
”The bishops have grown increasingly concerned with the current public discourse surrounding immigrants, in which newcomers are characterized as a threat to our nation and not a benefit,” Cardinal Theodore W. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said.
The debate over immigration policy, begun during consideration of the supplemental spending bill, is expected to continue as Congress considers a broader immigration policy package including some form of a foreign guest-worker program that would enable currently illegal immigrants to become citizens.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, are expected to introduce that proposal within days.
The New York Times
May 11, 2005 Wednesday
Late Edition – Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 5; National Desk; Pg. 16
HEADLINE: Congress Adopts Restriction On Treatment of Detainees
BYLINE: By ERIC LICHTBLAU
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, May 10
Congress barred the government on Tuesday from using any money in a newly passed emergency spending bill to subject anyone in American custody to torture or ”cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” that is forbidden by the Constitution.
Proponents said the little-noticed provision, in an $82 billion bill devoted mostly to financing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, amounted to a significant strengthening of current policies and practices in the treatment of prisoners.
Drafted since the disclosure of abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, it lays out a definition of illegal treatment that human rights groups say is broader than the Bush administration’s current interpretation, and links the ban directly to military spending.
”This sends a clear message to our own government that certain conduct is simply unacceptable,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who sponsored the provision, said in an interview. ”And it reminds the world that what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison is not American policy and is not tolerated.”
The administration, which helped defeat efforts to include antitorture restrictions in legislation last year, said it did not oppose the provision in the new military operations bill. The Senate passed that bill on Tuesday by a vote of 100 to 0, after approval by the House last week, and the administration indicated that President Bush would sign it into law.
”If the Congress wants to use the appropriation process to dictate government action, that’s within their power, and the Department of Justice did not oppose it,” said Kevin Madden, spokesman for the department.
Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, declined to address the merits of the antitorture provision but said that the White House was aware of it and that Mr. Bush wanted to sign the bill quickly.
”The president has made clear that this administration does not condone torture,” Mr. Duffy said. ”That is administration policy, and that still stands.”
In opposing antitorture measures last year, the White House said they were unnecessary and would provide expanded legal rights to which foreign prisoners were not entitled. One such measure would have specifically subjected American intelligence officers at the C.I.A. and elsewhere to new restrictions, with implications for the agency’s overseas interrogation of senior leaders of Al Qaeda.
The provision approved Tuesday does not include any specific references to intelligence officers. Instead, it says that no money appropriated in the bill can be used ”to subject any person in the custody or under the physical control of the United States to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.”
Human rights advocates said it was unclear whether the prohibition would restrict the ability of the C.I.A. or other government agencies to conduct so-called renditions — that is, to send terrorism suspects to be interrogated in other countries, even those that are known to engage in abusive treatment of prisoners.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sponsored a version of the provision in the House, said that in his view the measure effectively banned renditions if military financing provided by the bill was involved. Other officials said the issue was not so clear-cut.
Elisa Massimino, the Washington director of Human Rights First, formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the Congressional ban served to remove an important exemption claimed by the administration in its treatment of foreign prisoners.
At hearings on his confirmation as attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales said the administration, backed by the courts, held that foreign prisoners ”enjoy no substantive rights” under the Constitution or the Convention Against Torture, a United Nations agreement.
But the measure approved Tuesday drew no distinction between American citizens and foreign prisoners in forbidding cruel, unusual or inhuman treatment that is prohibited by the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.
Ms. Massimino said the exemption cited by Mr. Gonzales was ”a pretty big loophole, and this measure in Congress is a step toward herding the administration back toward the rule of law.”
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the passage of the antitorture provision ”clearly shows that there’s growing traction on this issue in Congress, when you have even Republicans willing to break ranks and raise concerns” about the treatment of prisoners.
”This,” Mr. Romero said, ”is a bullet the administration hasn’t been able to dodge.”
The Washington Post
May 11, 2005 Wednesday
SECTION: A Section; A01
HEADLINE: Congress Approves $82 Billion for Wars;
Iraq Cost to Pass $200 Billion;
Army to Ask for More
BYLINE: Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray, Washington Post Staff Writers
The Senate gave final passage yesterday to an $82 billion emergency war-spending bill, sending President Bush a measure that will push the cost of the Iraq invasion well past $200 billion.
Even with such large, unanticipated expenditures, Army officials and congressional aides say more money will be needed as early as October. The Army Materiel Command, the Army’s main logistical branch, has put Congress on notice that it will need at least two more emergency “supplemental” bills just to finance the repair and replacement of Army equipment. By 2010, war costs are likely to exceed half a trillion dollars, according to nonpartisan congressional researchers.
“We’re fighting a war on supplementals, and it’s a hell of a way to do business,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs, who until last year was working on the Army’s modernization plans. “The base budget of the U.S. Army needs to be adjusted to fight the war on terror, and I have no idea where the money is going to come from.”
The final spending measure was nearly identical in cost to the $81.9 billion request Bush submitted in February. Most of the debate in Congress revolved not around the money but around unrelated immigration measures. The bill includes a provision that would make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses that the federal government would recognize as identification. It would also expand the list of terrorism-related activities that will make an immigrant inadmissible or deportable, tighten rules on political asylum, and add federal powers to ease construction of border barriers.
The Senate unanimously approved the spending measure. The House gave final approval to the bill last week, 368 to 58.The bill provides the Defense Department nearly $76 billion on top of $25 billion already appropriated mainly for Iraq for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. It also contains $5 billion for foreign policy efforts, including $1.28 billion to construct and operate a U.S. embassy in Baghdad that will be among the world’s largest, $660 million for tsunami relief, $200 million for aid to the Palestinians, and $370 million in relief for the conflicts in Sudan.
The overwhelming vote and the desultory debate over the mounting cost of the war in Iraq belied concerns that the war is taking a toll on both the U.S. Treasury and the military’s efforts to retool for the future. For fiscal 2005, the Pentagon has now been allocated about $100 billion for war costs, 45 percent more than last year. That total is nearly 30 percent of the $350 billion deficit the federal government is projected to run this year.
With the president’s signature, the government will have allocated $350.6 billion for war-related spending since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Congressional Research Service estimates. Since 2003, Congress has given the Defense Department $183 billion for Iraq, while appropriating an additional $25 billion to other government agencies operating in Iraq, such as the State Department, for a total of $208 billion, according to the CRS. During last year’s presidential campaign, the Bush team excoriated Democratic challenger John F. Kerry for asserting that the war would cost $200 billion.
An additional $74 billion has been appropriated for Afghanistan. Still more has been spent on enhanced security and other military operations that stemmed from the 2001 attacks.
The recently passed budget resolution assumes that an additional $50 billion will be spent in 2006, but few congressional aides thought war costs would stay that low.
“It’s your money, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer,” mocked Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).
Indeed, some lawmakers are pressuring the administration to rein in supplemental requests, especially for items that could hardly be viewed as unforeseen emergencies. The latest emergency bill includes $5 billion to help reorganize and equip the Army into smaller “modular” brigades, a move that was announced in 2003.
Members of Congress complain that the emergency process denies lawmakers’ oversight powers and keeps Iraq costs off the deficit projections for future years. “It’s dangerously irresponsible,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) warned in February. Although support for the current package was overwhelming, lawmakers insisted it is the final straw.
“We’re more serious,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “We all know what’s being done. There’s greater and greater resistance.”
Pentagon officials are trying to bring down those supplemental expenditures substantially, said Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington. Officials have told the military services that next year’s emergency spending bill should be the last for operations in Afghanistan and that the 2007 request should end emergency bills for Iraq. After that, costs are supposed to be subsumed into the regular Pentagon budget.
One senior GOP congressional aide involved in Pentagon budgeting went further. Trying to squeeze long-term funding out of supplementals “is a losing strategy,” he said. The $50 billion bill in the 2006 budget “is going to be the last one,” the aide said.
But Army officials say eliminating emergency measures would jeopardize spending on military modernization and advanced weapons systems because those programs would be cannibalized for the war effort, said Dov S. Zakheim, the recently departed Pentagon comptroller. Congress has proved willing to fully fund emergency spending measures, but lawmakers are less ready to accept large increases in the Defense Department’s base budget. “It’s a very legitimate concern,” Zakheim said. The House Appropriations Committee has already elected to cut $3.3 billion from the president’s $367 billion Pentagon request.
Some budget analysts had hoped that such a large bill, approved eight months into the fiscal year, would get the military well into 2006, but Army officials said that is not likely. Already, the Army Materiel Command has been taking money from other operations to fund equipment repair efforts, with the understanding that the money would be repaid from the supplemental bill, said Gary Motsek, the command’s deputy director.
“The supplemental is, for the most part, already committed or obligated,” he said.
Motsek said his command will need two more emergency requests after the war ends just to repair and refurbish equipment.
The Washington Post
May 13, 2005 Friday
SECTION: Editorial; A22
HEADLINE: ‘Emergency’ End Run
“OCCASIONALLY there is need to modify the President’s budget to recognize special circumstances that could not be foreseen when the President’s budget was transmitted to Congress.” So explains the Office of Management and Budget Web site in its section on supplemental budget requests. True enough, and in a world of rational budgeting, you’d want to provide a way to meet urgent and unexpected needs.
But the $82 billion emergency supplemental spending bill that Congress just approved cannot fit within anyone’s definition of honest, sensible budgeting. For the third year in a row, the Bush administration has chosen to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a grab bag of other programs, outside the normal appropriations process. To call this emergency spending is farcical. Though the precise cost of military operations was not known, there was no reason, especially as the war continued, not to budget for most, if not all, of it in the ordinary course of business. After a single emergency supplemental, the war in Vietnam was financed through regular appropriations.
The current budgetary end run undermines congressional oversight and makes a mockery of claims of spending restraint. Lawmakers and the administration set strict spending limits, pat themselves on the back for their alleged frugality — and then proceed to bust those limits, with no tough trade-offs required, when it comes to the so-called emergency spending. It’s no wonder that the military likes this approach. Keeping war costs off the regular budget books protects other defense spending; it also gives the Pentagon a second chance to win funding for projects that may have been turned down once but can be recast as war-related. But partly for the same reasons, the system is bad for taxpayers: It masks the scope of deficit spending and avoids a serious discussion of what is and isn’t affordable.
Moreover, because the war funding requests are cast as must-pass measures — and to a large extent they are — there’s limited ability to scrutinize and debate what’s in them or to excise the most problematic components, whether pork or policy. Thus, the latest supplemental includes a set of unwise and largely undebated changes in immigration law stuffed into the measure during the House-Senate conference. Because conference agreements can’t be amended, lawmakers who objected to the provisions were presented with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and they weren’t about to leave troops unfunded.
Similarly, the spending measures can become havens for special-interest provisions; though this supplemental may have been more restrained than its predecessors, it provided, among other earmarks, $35 million for a wastewater treatment plant in Mississippi, $2 million for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Michigan, and $4 million for the Fire Sciences Academy in Elko, Nev. Remind us: Where’s the emergency?
Abusing the budget process this way isn’t a new dodge, but it has grown to absurd proportions during the past several years. The measure just passed contains a nonbinding Senate request that the administration include the costs of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in its next regular budget, due next February. The administration ought, belatedly, to listen.