By Executive Director John Isaacs
Color me surprised.
I recently wrote about votes in the House of Representatives signaling rising discontent with the use of military force abroad – but also pointed out that Members of Congress are not ready to take back the right to declare war.
The House came close to a majority vote against the Afghanistan War for the first time when it narrowly rejected (by a vote of 204 – 215) an amendment by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). While the bill called for a withdrawal plan, it did not call for cutting off funding for the war.
At the time, I expressed skepticism that a resolution offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to force the removal of U.S. armed forces from Libya would to get into the triple digits of support.
Wrong! Kucinich received 148 votes, including an incredibly high number of 87 Republicans. It used to be Kucinich was toxic to Republicans – and to many Democrats. No longer.
In fact, a vote on the Kucinich resolution was delayed in the House so that Speaker John Boehner could put forward an alternative resolution to draw Republican votes from Kucinich.
The Boehner resolution rebuked the President for his Libya policy, but did not require a troop withdrawal. His resolution was adopted by a stunning 268-145.
Cynics in Washington, D.C. – is there anyone but cynics here – naturally assume that many Republicans are willing to repudiate a Democratic President but would have slavishly followed a Republican.
I am not so sure about that facile assumption, at least in this case.
It is always hard to determine motives for a particular vote; it means seeing into a Member’s soul.
Only President George W. Bush could do that with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Rather, I believe that many tea party Republicans are anti-government abroad as well as at home. They want small government keeping its hands off health care and regulation and Afghanistan and Libya.
Or, as I was quoted in the New York Times:
They [tea party Republicans] reflect a growing discontent within the Republican Party about the wars and a growing feeling that they don’t want to spend money on them anymore,” said John Isaacs, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, an advocacy group that promotes arms control. “They are military noninterventionists.
Okay, it is doubtful that the House will act within its powers to cut off funds for the Libyan operation in a few weeks when the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Appropriations bill comes to the House floor.
And even if the House were to be so bold, the Senate is moving in the opposite direction to endorse the use of force in Libya.
But the bible of the neo-conservative Republican right, the Wall Street Journal, was disturbed enough by the votes on Libya to denounce “the emergence of the Kucinich Republicans.”
Naturally, the Journal prefers to see more aggressive American military action in Libya, weak-kneed Democrats or anti-war Republicans be damned.
Anytime the Wall Street Journal is unhappy, I am happy.
Strange doings in the Republican Party. Stay tuned to see where things go from here, particularly when the Defense Appropriations bill is considered by the House the week of June 20.