Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has returned to what has been a recurring theme with him. Yesterday he took to the floor of the House to argue to bring American troops home from Syria. In fact he has been working an anti-war agenda for years, even in opposition to President Trump. But the vote failed overwhelmingly, which might indicate either inertia or the continued strength of the “imperial mind-set.”
Terms of the Matt Gaetz war powers resolution
Matt Gaetz introduced his resolution on February 17. It would set simple terms: withdraw American troops from Syria by a date certain. At first he proposed to bring troops out in fifteen days – practically “forthwith” in military terms. The current resolution sets a deadline of 180 days – because Gaetz wanted this to pass. Rep. Jamal Bowman (D-N.Y.) introduced a similar resolution in January. This issue cuts across Party lines, though in the past most Democrats want out of Syria, while most Republicans have wanted to stay in. (America is in Syria ostensibly to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. But the general consensus is that President Donald Trump rendered ISIS ineffective anyway – so why stay?)
This time Matt Gaetz put together a formidable coalition to speak in favor of his resolution. His Republican allies read like the House MAGA Caucus, and include Representatives:
- Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),
- Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and
- Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).
And according to The Daily Caller and The Intercept, he has significant Democratic support, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Intercept reports that Robert Ford, who had been Obama’s Ambassador to Syria, recently declared for bringing the troops home.
On the conservative side, FreedomWorks, Concerned Women for America, and Citizens for Renewing America have also joined.
War powers resolutions are privileged according to House Rules, so the House must vote on them within eighteen days. Yesterday was the day.
Sampling of speeches
Matt Gaetz spoke extensively to defend his resolution, of course. Several of his colleagues took the floor after him. Here is a sampling:
Unfortunately, despite this impressive line-up, the resolution went down to defeat. The final tally:
On agreeing to House Concurrent Resolution 21, the War Powers Resolution: Yea Nay Present Not Voting Republican 47 171 4 Democratic 56 150 7 Independent Totals 103 321 11
In short, the resolution failed by a margin of roughly three to one. Republicans and Democrats voted for, or against, the resolution in almost equal proportions.
That represents a significant change from the vote on Rep. Bowman’s resolution.
This time, significantly more Democrats voted against troop withdrawal this time than last. But a few more Republicans voted for it this time.
Matt Gaetz’ resolution might have failed for one of three reasons:
- Matt Gaetz did not spend enough time drumming up support, before introducing a privileged resolution for such a quick vote. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) made that specific complaint.
I wish Gaetz had worked more closely with the coalition of groups that have been working on this and the CPC. Nonetheless, I am a yes on the resolution.
- Some Democrats would never vote for a war-powers resolution with Republican authorship. Partisanship, by this theory, supersedes even the merits of a bill or resolution.
- The “imperial mind-set” is still strong, even among Democrats. By this theory it has strengthened among Democrats and weakened among Republicans, if slightly.
Or has it? For we must add a fourth reason, that Matt Gaetz will not, or cannot, mention: bribery. Every Member of Congress, in each chamber, is vulnerable to bribery, for a simple reason: the Caucus Dues system. Both Party Conferences, or Caucuses, collect Caucus Dues to finance re-election campaigns. The problem: Caucus Dues amount to a Member’s annual salary. So Members must look to lobbyists to replenish their salary – and no lobby spends more than the defense industry. That fact drives the endless war that all Presidents but one have waged in modern times. That exceptional President is Donald Trump.
Can Matt Gaetz or anyone else stop endless war?
So if the people want relief from endless war, only a President can bring it. This, even more than partisanship, explains why Congress would have voted to certify Joe Biden as President no matter what motions anyone allowed. President Biden has continued to wage endless war. In fact Biden’s old boss Barack Obama got America into the Syrian theater.
So Matt Gaetz, whether he recognizes it or not, has exposed a central flaw in our Constitutional system. Many of the speakers on Gaetz’ side pointed out how many of their constituents oppose the endless war paradigm. CNAV doubts that any district in the House has a majority of ordinary civilians who derive any thrill, vicarious or otherwise, from being part of a world empire. Certainly not since the heyday of the Soviet Union has anyone actively campaigned on an American Imperial platform. But elections are won or lost on campaign funding – and that case will continue until Americans get wise to themselves, and compare notes.
Until Americans can and will do this, we will always be at war with Eastasia.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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