After OBL: McGovern/Jones Push for Real Withdrawal Plan

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the floodgates opened in Washington this week for reconsideration of U.S. plans to continue the open-ended war in Afghanistan.

Now Representatives Jim McGovern and Walter Jones have introduced the "Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act," bipartisan legislation that would require the President present to Congress a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a clear end date for the war. It would require the President to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the progress of troop withdrawal, as well as the human and financial costs of continuing the war. The President would also have to report how much money U.S. taxpayers would save if the war were brought to an end in six months, instead of five, ten, or twenty years.


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Home of the Brave: Gitmo Guard Speaks Out

It's young men like this who still make me proud to be an American. Republican Walter B. Jones, the North Carolina conservative who invented "Freedom Fries" but then turned against the Iraq War after going to one Marine funeral too many (Camp LeJeune is his district) has signed on as a co-sponsor for an investigation of Bush illegalities. He's an interesting guy. Got pissed-off at the Pentagon policy of not allowing the press to cover dead soldiers' coffins coming off airplanes. A new poll shows nearly 40% of Americans support launching criminal investigations into the use of torture and warrantless wiretapping. You can almost feel gears buckling down as these issues grab traction. Today was the official dawning of the Age of Aquarius, 7:30 a.m. this morning. Against all odds I feel hopeful.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Army Pvt. Brandon Neely was scared when he took Guantanamo's first shackled detainees off a bus. Told to expect vicious terrorists, he grabbed a trembling, elderly detainee and ground his face into the cement -- the first of a range of humiliations he says he participated in and witnessed as the prison was opening for business.

   Neely has now come forward in this final year of the detention center's existence, saying he wants to publicly air his feelings of guilt and shame about how some soldiers behaved as the military scrambled to handle the first alleged al-Qaida and Taliban members arriving at the isolated U.S. Navy base....

   "If Guantanamo has taught us anything, it's the importance of abiding by the rule of law," said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.

   Or as Neely put it in an interview with The Associated Press this week, "The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong."


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Coaxing a Party Switch in North Carolina

Back in March I pointed to the possibility that North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones, a conservative on most issues other than Iraq, where he has staked out an anti-war position, would leave the GOP and join the Democrats. Well, it hasn't happened yet, but perhaps it may soon given the way Jones' caucus is treating him. The Hill's Jackie Kucinich has the story.

Rep. Walter Jones's (N.C.) position on the Iraq war is likely to keep him out of the Armed Services Committee's Republican leadership despite his seniority, as the panel's ranking member mulls who will succeed former Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) as Readiness subcommittee ranking member, according to sources on both sides of the aisle.

A spokesman for Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said he has yet to make a decision and is working through the process of naming a successor to Davis, who died Oct. 6 following a two-year battle with breast cancer.

Jones most likely will be passed over for the subcommittee's ranking member position for the second time in the 110th Congress, according to a congressional source familiar with the discussions. The anti-war Republican has been slighted in the past for siding with Democratic leadership on Iraq war resolutions.


Despite his party's dissatisfaction, Jones has found it easier to get things done for his district by working with Democrats, he said in an April interview with The Hill.

As I noted back in March, Jones has already previously been a member of the Democratic Party, having unsuccessfully run as a Democrat for the congressional seat being vacated by his father, also a Democrat, in 1992, before winning his current seat as a Republican in 1994. Were he to switch parties during this Congress, he would put a seat (North Carolina 3) that is otherwise not really in play for the Democrats (it leans about 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, according to the Cook PVI) on the map.

There is little doubt that he would be among the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus were he to join it (either as a Democrat or a Democratic-leaning independent). To take one example, Jones voted against the expansion of SCHIP earlier this year -- though that can at least in part be chalked up to the fact that he represents a state uniquely hit by the increased tax on cigarettes (given the prominent role the tobacco industry plays in the North Carolina economy). That said, at least according to the 2006 National Journalvote rankings, Jones lines up on the left side of the aisle, voting liberally than 53.5 percent of his colleagues in the second session of the 109th Congress, which is about as good as one could ask for from a district as inherently Republican as North Carolina's third. So I, for one, would be happy to see Jones jump ship from the Republican Party.

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NC's Lumbee Indians deserve to have full Federal recognition as a Native American Indian Tribe

North Carloina's Lumbee Indians deserve to have full Federal recognition as a Native American Indian Tribe

Just about anyone who has lived in North Carolina for any length of time is aware of the existence of the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina's Robeson County .  The Lumbee are an indigenous tribe with a centuries long, proud, well documented history in North Carolina.

A visit to the Smithsonian Institute will educate any interested party in the Lumbee culture and significance in American history, yet they still await Federal recognition as a legitimate tribe by the Department of Interior. Heres why.

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The First GOP to Dem Party Switch of the 110th Congress?

Following changes in control over a chamber of Congress, it is not uncommon to see a member or many members of the newly-minted minority leaving their party in favor of the new majority caucus. Following the 1994 midterms, for instance, a number of once Democratic Representatives and Senators (Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby are two large names that come to mind) defected from their party. Although there has yet to be a Senator or Congressman who switched his partisan allegiance from the GOP to the Democratic Party since the 2006 midterms, the possibility remains that one or more still will. Writing in the Thursday edition of The Hill, Jackie Kucinich takes a look at the entreaties offered to one GOP Rep. by the Democrats.

[North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter] Jones's position on Iraq has drawn Democrats to him in recent years, and particularly in the last two months, since he was denied a subcommittee chairmanship on the Armed Services Committee.

While declining to identify which of "several" Democrats have approached him about switching parties, Jones said, as he has many times before, that he plans to stick with the GOP for now.

"Obviously there were some Democrats when I was not given the ranking member status of Armed Services [who wanted] to chat with me," he said, noting that Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) has said publicly that his party would support a swap.

"I [would] welcome him in the Democratic Caucus," Taylor told CongressDaily in January.

"You know it's my political nature to be ... I'm guided by my faith. Quite frankly, I'm strong pro-life," Jones said to explain his allegiance, noting that he didn't believe the Democratic leadership was in line with him on such social issues. "I just take each day as it comes; I certainly think about where I will be a year or two, three years from now, but that's God's plan, not mine ... I think at the present time, because of the pro- life issue primarily, I am where I need to be.

"But I am an independent. There are issues I vote with my party on; there are issues I don't," he said.

Jones is no stranger to the Democratic Party. His father, Walter B. Jones Sr. represented a similar portion of North Carolina for more than 25 years -- as a Democrat -- and when the younger Jones ran to succeed his father in 1992 he did so, unsuccessfully, as a Democrat. Two years later, Jones ran as a Republican and won, and has since maintained that same party allegiance in the House.

But at the same time, Jones is not the most partisan member of his caucus -- not by a long shot. While Jones' standing as one of the leading proponents of bringing an end to the Iraq War from either party has set him apart from most of his fellow Republicans, on a whole range of other issues he voted more like a centrist/conservative Southern Democrat than a traditional Republican. According to 2006 vote rankings from National Journal, Jones tended to vote more liberally than 53.5 percent of his colleagues in the House across all issues (57 percent on economic and foreign policy, 45 percent on social policy), ranking him more liberal than 10 Democrats and all but two Republicans. Similarly, CQ found that on party line votes during over the course of 2006 Jones was the third most likely Republican and eighth most likely member of the House to defect from his party's caucus, doing so about 36 percent of the time.

Now there is certainly credence to the notion that the political cover given to a political party by having a member of the opposing member on its side, thus giving it "bipartisan support", is more beneficial than the addition of one more member, particularly when that party's majority in a chamber is not so small as to be affected by a party switch in the other direction or a sudden retirement. That said, in this particular case House Democrats would well served by adding Jones to their ranks. The district Jones represents, North Carolina's third, leans about 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, according to the Cook Political Report's PVI, and as such is not likely to swing Democratic any time soon in the absence of a party switch by Jones. What's more, Jones is established enough in his district that he would likely be able to hold on to his seat even if challenged by the Republicans following a party switch.

It is worth reiterating that Jones not in line with the Democratic Party on every issue, most notably the issue of choice, and that, what's more, he would be one of the more conservative members of the party caucus in the House. That said, if you want to let Jones know that you would like to see him join the Democratic Party -- particularly if you are a constituent of his, but even if you're not -- send him an email through this form or give him a call (his official number is available here, his campaign number here).

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