Open Letter to Maryland Democrats Who Voted for More War

To: Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, Ben Cardin, Barbara Mikulski

What have you to fear?

Last night, the House and the Senate, yourselves included, voted to approve continued funding for the war in Iraq without language mandating a phased redeployment of troops from Iraq over the next year, and without mandating that the President require that the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks in order to receive continued aid. While it was clear that President Bush was going to veto anything that fell short of giving him carte blanche to carry on the war as he sees fits, I was nevertheless astonished at how quickly the Democratic leadership in Congress capitulated to his demands.

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The 34 Habeas Obstacles, and the Democratic Squeeze

With today's fairly stunning (though not shocking) comments from AG Gonzales on habeas, it's worth running down the legislative strategy for restoring this basic tenet of the American legal system.  First of all, this is a core base issue.  Among others, Moveon went out today with an email on the Habeas restoration, and as the Times has noted, there are half a dozen bills on habeas floating around the House.  The key to successfully moving this through Congress is to show that there is a majority on habeas with a floor vote, and then use that show of strength to attach a habeas restoration to one of any number of 'must-pass' legislative vehicles.  

The DoD Authorization is one such vehicle, though there are many others, such as various Appropriations bills and Budget bills.  To see an example of how this works, consider the difference between passing a stand-alone withdrawal timeline versus attaching it to a funding bill.  If we wanted to put withdrawal timelines alone through Congress, they could be stopped by the House, the Senate, or Bush, easily.  But when these timelines are attached to a larger vehicle, money the troops need, lots of on-the-fence members voted for something they wouldn't were it a stand-alone bill.  This is actually a standard legislative tactic, and why crushing net neutrality was thrown into a large telecom reform bill last cycle which had some stuff we actually like (like cable competition).  At the end of the day, of course, the President has to sign these bills for them to become law, so there's always the veto threat.  This is why bills often tend to take more than one Congress to pass.  For instance, the Bankruptcy Bill was coming up regularly in the late 1990s, and only passed in 2005.  Habeas restoration could be on a similar track.  

In this cycle, though, what legislative strategy we chooses hinges on the need for a majority of members to vote for a restoration of habeas.  It's unclear that there is in fact a majority.  There are 34 Democrats who voted for the Military Commissions Act under intense GOP pressure, and presumably some of them can be moved to vote for a restoration of habeas with leadership arm-twisting on the other side.  We got 168 votes against the MCA, which means that we have to build 50 more votes to get to a majority of 218 votes.  We picked up 30 seats in the 2006 election, flipped from Harold Ford to Steve Cohen (and Sherrod Brown was replaced), and there are 7 Democrats who didn't vote.  So starting from the very peak of possibilities and assuming that all the newly elected Democrats are yes votes (a strong assumption), we are at 206 pro-habeas votes.  That's 12 short of a majority, though it's more like 20-25 short of a majority considering we'll probably lose a few Blue Dogs and some Republicans who were with us last time.

So that's where we are.  20-25 votes short of a pro-habeas majority.  Here's a list of the 34 Democrats who voted for the Military Commissions Act.  These are the members to work on, and you'll recognize a bunch of them from earlier, um, problematic positions.

Robert Andrews, John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Sanford Bishop, Dan Boren, Leonar d Boswell, Allen Boyd, Sherrod Brown, Ben Chandler, Bud Cramer, Henry Cuellar, Artur Davis, Lincoln Davis, Chet Edwards, Bob Etheridge, Harold Ford, Bart Gordon, Stephanie Herseth, Brian Higgins, Tim Holden, Jim Marshall, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Charles Melancon, Michael Michaud, Dennis Moore, Collin Peterson, Earl Pomeroy, Mike Ross, John Salazar, David Scott, John Spratt, John Tanner, Gene Taylor

First of all, let's note that that's a lot of dudes.  My gender is laaaame.  Ok, second of all, it's pretty clear that voting for Habeas is not a flip-flop against the MCA, since they are different bills, and momentum from leadership can move some of these votes.  Third, Ike Skelton, who is a very conservative Democrat, is committed to the restoration of habeas corpus, which is helpful in terms of convincing a lot of these members that they aren't solely associating with liberals here.

Early next week, it's being reported that Tauscher and Skelton are going to 'drop a bill' restoring habeas.  It's not clear what this bill will say, and if it will be as strong as Nadler's bill.  What will happen is that this is going to go through both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees before hitting the floor.  The timing for this to go to the floor is in June at the earliest, since floor time is tough to come by.  The move for a habeas restoration in the DoD Authorization was a quick attempt to stick the bill that looks like it failed, though it's still possible to bring the habeas restoration amendment to the floor during the DoD authorization debate.  It wasn't done openly, but you can read the code in the editorials in the NYT and the Washington Post. The insiders were in the know.

There are lots of strategic openings with habeas, and lobbyists and different player are trying different tactics.  Some of them are open and many of them are not.  There are different rumors flying around, some of which pan out and some don't.  What I heard on Tuesday from a well-placed source, while not inaccurate, was certainly out-of-date by the time she told me.  That's why I wrote at the time that it was an outside shot.

Long story short, here's the essential roadmap, along with our role.  It's never entirely clear how to move something through Congress.  There are 435 members and thousands of people involved.  We need to take advantage of every single opportunity to put pressure on our members.  There are times when legislative changes can be snuck into bills, and if members know that they have felt pressure on a related issue, they will be more likely to sneak our stuff in there or look out and object to bad stuff being put in there.

I have one other observation.  Sometimes we'll need to put pressure on Blue Dogs, but sometimes we'll need to put pressure on progressives.  Some progressives will just not vote for certain types of legislative vehicles, like the DoD Authorization, because they don't want to legimitize our use of the military.  The 37 members that voted 'no' in 2006 for the DoD Authorization bill are after the flip.  Most of these members understand and will vote for something like the DoD Authorization if it has a habeas restoration in, but we need to make sure that they do in fact do this.  This DoD Authorization bill has some good stuff in it, like Walter Reed changes, cuts in missile defense, and global warming initiatives, and it may get vetoed regardless.  But the squeeze between progressives and Blue Dogs is a tight one, and will have to be managed for most important bills going through Congress.

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Habeas Update

I've been calling around to find out what's going on with habeas corpus and the Armed Services Committee tomorrow. The New York Times editorialized on it today (so did the Washington Post, h/t Digby):

There are a half-dozen bills in the House and the Senate that would restore habeas corpus. But the Democratic leadership has not found a way to bring the issue to a vote. The first vehicle is the Defense Department's budget authorization bill. But Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, chose not to include habeas corpus in his baseline version of the measure, known as the chairman's mark, which will be taken up by the committee today.

We hope habeas will be added to the bill by the committee, or that other sponsors of measures to restore the ancient right, including Representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Jerrold Nadler of New York, and Senators Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, will find ways to bring their bills to a vote.

The mark-up continues through tomorrow, so we'll see what happens. There are reporters snooping around to figure out the contours of the internal debate. Interestingly, it seems to be an entirely political problem; the votes are there for the restoration of habeas, but leadership is worried about taking heat from Republicans. So if there's a vote, we'll probably win. We can have a vote in committee or on the floor, in an amendment or in the bill itself. The ideal scenario is to have the Chairman, Ike Skelton, include habeas in his version of the bill, but he didn't do that. That said, if we lose this fight, there are other legislative vehicles coming down the pike we can use for the restoration of habeas, so our effort will not be wasted either way.

If we can't move habeas in the DoD Authorization bill, Ellen Tauscher's press secretary is saying that Ike Skelton will be introducing a bill early next week. It's not clear to me why they are playing these games unless they don't want this bill attached to something that has to pass. So keep calling. And if you donated to any of the officials on the committee, call them.

Leadership
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats
Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina,  (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California,  (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, 202-225-4311
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

So far, the following blogs have blogged about this and/or encouraged people to call in. More groups are going to jump on soon, and with these blogs plus the Times and the Post, a few million people are aware of this immediate fight. The Democrats are going to have to move on this, and if they don't do it now they will have to get it done later.

Firedoglake
Atrios
Glenn Greenwald
Dailykos
Andrew Sullivan
Talkleft
Down with Tyranny
LeftInLowell
Prospect Park Project
Iowa Independent
Calitics
Digby
Valerie Sanford sent it to her list.
Taylor Marsh
Capitol Defense Weekly
Partnership for a Secure America
The Tail of One, Squirrel
Correntewire
The Impolitic
Working For Change
Obsidian Wings
Republic of Dogs
A Spork in the Drawer
Boulder County Dems
A Socialable Loner
Right-thinking from the Left Coast
My Left Nutmeg
American Torture
Leanleft
West Virginia Blue

Habeas Restoration: Move Quick

I'm told there's an outside shot that House Democrats on the Armed Services Committee will put a restoration of habeas corpus into the Defense Department Authorization Bill being marked up tomorrow and Thursday.  Apparently Chairman Skelton has the votes but there are concerns about whether to have this fight now.

Now's the time to let them know that this is something that we elected them to get done.  There's a bit of fear that this vote could put freshmen members at risk, though I don't really know why as the data on this isn't compelling and the attack ads just didn't work in 2006.

The most important members to contact are Ike Skelton, antiwar freshmen, and members of the Armed Services Committee.  Pelosi and Hoyer would be good too.  Each link below goes to that member's email form, and their phone numbers are to the right.  I've only included Democratic members of the committee since the decision on whether to make a vote will be made within the party - the full list of Armed Service members is here.

Call and ask them to restore habeas corpus and put it in the Defense Department Authorization bill.  This is an especially important message to deliver to freshmen members who have the moral credibility of having been in elected in 2006 in the teeth of Republican fear-mongering.

Leadership
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats
Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina,  (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California,  (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, 202-225-4311
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

Please rip this list off and spread it far and wide.

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Capitulation Caucus Leader Steny Hoyer

Like this should be a surprise.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer already is talking with key Republicans in Congress about striking a new agreement if President Bush follows through on his promised veto of an Iraq war spending bill that includes timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops.

During a visit to New Hampshire on Sunday, Hoyer said he had little hope that the president will sign the measure, and doubts Democrats could muster the votes to override a veto.

Speaking to reporters with U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., Hoyer insisted, however, that any new measure hold the Iraqi government accountable for taking over its national security and quelling sectarian violence.

"If there are no consequences, then the government has no incentive to follow those objectives," Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he has already spoken with House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., about potential solutions after a veto.

Last week, Hoyer was badmouthing the 'short leash' solution which would force Republicans to vote for two months of funding every two months and break their will.  Now he's talking about caving to Bush and cutting out the progressives in a weaker Iraq bill that lets Bush do anything he wants.

This is not acceptable.  Hoyer's contact information is here. Ask him to send a two month funding bill to Bush.

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Diaries

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