In Congress: 32 Heroes, 21 Frauds

Clockwise from upper left: Members of Congress Lynn Woolsey, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Jim McGovern

Clockwise from upper left: Members of Congress Lynn Woolsey, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Jim McGovern

The congressional elections of 2006 and 2008 were almost universally understood as shaped by public desire to end the war in Iraq. Last month, when a war supplemental spending bill (another $97 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) was expected to easily pass in the House with bipartisan support, 51 Democrats sought to please their constituents by voting No. Tuesday evening, when the same bill stood a good chance of failing, 20 of those same Congress members voted Yes and one did not vote. But 30 stood by their vote when it actually meant something. They were joined by 2 more, for a total of 32 Democrats voting No.

A coalition of progressive bloggers had been whipping hard to reach the total of 39 and fell short by 7. In fact, we fell short by 12, because the White House persuaded 5 Republicans to oppose their own party and vote Yes. Most Republicans were voting in opposition to International Monetary Fund spending that had been added into the bill by the Senate. At least one Republican, Ron Paul, and maybe as many as 9, when they voted No were opposing the war funding as well.

These were the 51 Democrats who, along with 9 Republicans, voted No the first time around, when their votes stood no chance of actually blocking the funding: Baldwin, Capuano, Clarke, Cohen, Conyers, Cooper, Costello, Doggett, Edwards (MD), Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank (MA), Grayson, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Honda, Inslee, Kagen, Kaptur, Kucinich, Lee (CA), Lewis (GA), Lofgren, Markey (MA), Massa, Matsui, McDermott, McGovern, Michaud, Miller, Napolitano, Neal (MA), Oberstar, Payne, Pingree (ME), Polis (CO), Schakowsky, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Speier, Thompson (CA), Tierney, Towns, Tsongas, Velázquez, Waters, Watson, Weiner, Welch, Woolsey.

The procedural vote on the rule to bring the bill up for a vote on Tuesday separated the true heroes from the merely great. Here’s the roll call. Only 10 Democrats voted No: Filner, Heinrich, Kaptur, Kratovil, Kucinich, Michaud, Minnick, Mitchell, Rush, Waters. Of these, 5 voted No to oppose war funding (rather than to oppose IMF funding): Filner, Kaptur, Kucinich, Michaud, and Waters. But true heroes are also those who spoke out publicly and/or privately lobbied their colleagues to vote No with them in the days leading up to the vote. That list is even shorter, including — as far as I know — only Kucinich, McGovern, and Woolsey opposing the war money, with Filner and perhaps a few other Democrats publicly opposing the IMF funding. As far as I know, only Kucinich spoke on the floor of the House against war funding, and he did so repeatedly. Barbara Lee put out a statement against the war funding after it had passed.

The actual vote on the bill came shortly after the procedural vote, with 32 Democrats voting No. Here’s the roll call. Of the original 51, 30 stayed strong: Tammy Baldwin, Michael Capuano, John Conyers, Lloyd Doggett, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Sam Farr, Bob Filner (statement on IMF), Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Michael Honda, Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich (watch video, read statement, another statement, statement on IMF), Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Eric Massa, Jim McGovern (watch video), Michael Michaud, Donald Payne, Chellie Pingree, Jared Polis, Jose Serrano, Carol Shea-Porter, Jackie Speier, John Tierney, Nikki Tsongas, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Peter Welch, and Lynn Woolsey (watch video, read statement). These 30 were joined by these 2: Brad Sherman, Pete Stark.

These 32 Congress members, in many cases, stood up to threats, promises, and abuse from the White House and Nancy Pelosi. President Obama and several cabinet secretaries, the National Security Advisor, and of course the White House Chief of staff lobbied hard, including threatening to cut off all future electoral support. These members resisted and placed the interests of their constitutents and of the people of America, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, above the interests of the Democratic Party. They are heroes. They are the place to start building a caucus that might achieve peace.

We have citizen heroes too, groups and blogs and individuals who raised their voices and organized against this bill, including but not limited to: Action Center For Justice, After Downing Street, Air America, Alternet, American Friends Service Committee, the Backbone Campaign, Nick Baumann, Blue Mass Group, Brave New Films, Jennifer Brunner, Brendan Calling, Burnt Orange Report, Buzz Flash, Calitics, Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink, Common Dreams, Daily Kos, Dday, Declaration of Peace, Democracy Now!, Democrats.com, Digby, Docudharma, FireDogLake, Bruce Gagnon, Green Mountain Daily, Glenn Greenwald, the Hip Hop Caucus, Howie Klein, Humanists for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jeremy Scahill, Just Foreign Policy, The Nation, Cynthia McKinney, Michigan Liberal, Linda Milazzo, Michael Moore, Military Families Speak Out, My Left Nutmeg, Not Larry Sabato, Open Left, Out of Iraq Blogger Caucus, Patriot Daily, Peace Action, Peace No War, Progressive Democrats of America, Jason Rosenbaum, Coleen Rowley, Santa Cruz Progressive Email List, Square State, Jonathan Tasini, True Maine Blue, Doug Tudor, United for Peace and Justice, US Labor Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Voters for Peace, Joan Wile, Win Without War, Marcy Winograd, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Can’t Wait, the Young Turks.

But here’s the Hall of Shame. These Congress members voted No for show when it didn’t matter, and voted Yes to fund wars when it came to crunch time: Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal (MA), James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner. And John Lewis, for one reason or another, did not vote.

We have citizen frauds too. These are organizations that, like fraudulent Congress members, acted as if they opposed wars when it didn’t much matter, when the government was run by Republicans dedicated to continuing wars. These are blogs and organizations that put the Democratic Party’s positions ahead of what’s good for the country or the world or — I would argue — even the Democratic Party. They did not lift a finger to oppose this war supplemental: Campaign for America’s Future, Center for American Progress, Democracy for America, Moveon.org, Talking Points Memo, and True Majority.

Of course the bulk of Congress and the bulk of civic organizations are not mentioned here at all because they are proud war mongers or they are groups that never involve themselves in the struggle for peace even when it’s safe to do so. The worst offense is not necessarily hypocrisy. The worst offense is promotion of militarism. But hypocrisy can fool you if you don’t focus your vision on it. And it will continue unless we make sure Congress knows we are onto them. We’ve been phoning Congress nonstop for the past week, but I strongly encourage you to make a few more calls, to thank the heroes and spank the frauds. The arc of justice is long but it only bends if we keep bending it.

David Swanson
Republished with permission from AfterDowningStreet.

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