President’s expanded war powers should be repealed

The bill discussed in The Hill’s Jan. 16 article “Senate bill amends War Powers Act” sounds like a positive step, but it’s not enough. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are correct to recognize that the president’s war powers have grown steadily for decades, to the point that Congress’s constitutional power to declare war has become meaningless. However, as long as the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) remains functional, efforts to update the War Powers Act are largely useless.

Right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress essentially delegated the entirety of its war-making authority to the president, authorizing him to wage global war at his discretion. But the power doesn’t end there. In the more than 12 years since its passage, the AUMF’s scope has grown exponentially. Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have used it as the sole legal justification for indefinite detentions, assassinations of U.S. citizens and warrantless wiretapping.

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This is 2014, the year that the troops are slated to return from Afghanistan. But the president’s expanded war powers will not end with the war this time. The consequences of the AUMF will remain with us until the law is actively repealed, and this is the year for that repeal. The president’s constitutional powers to defend the nation are already broad and make the AUMF largely redundant for purposes of “readiness.” Instead, as long as the AUMF remains active, it will continue to be used to justify the most controversial and troubling programs, such as the National Security Agency’s complex surveillance network.

The logical solution is to pair this update to the War Powers Act with a repeal of the AUMF. The bill introduced by Kaine and McCain merely requires the president to seek authorization for acts of war — but what is the point when they have already given him a blank check?

Washington, D.C.


Congress shouldn’t be proud of bloated bills

From Larry Penner:

The president and Congress should not be proud of the adoption of the recent 1,582-page omnibus spending bill. Today’s generation of lawmakers could learn much from the late Idaho Republican Sen. James A. McClure. For 18 years, his claim to fame on Capitol Hill was reading every word of every bill before voting on it. For many years, he signed his own mail. 

Today members of Congress would need an Evelyn Wood speed-reading class to absorb all the pages contained in the omnibus bill for the rest of federal fiscal 2014. Most members had little time to read the fine print before being asked to vote up or down. Only lobbyists, key congressional staff members employed by the House and Senate leadership teams and the House and Senate Appropriations committees who actually wrote the fine print within those 1,582 pages on behalf of their bosses had any idea of the details buried in the actual contents. 

Can you imagine how many pork barrel member item projects, special tax code provisions, regulatory relief for favored businesses or unions along with other legislative treats for “Pay for Play” contributors, lobbyists and special interest groups were included in the bill? This was the political quid pro quo, or price to pay, for many Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative, to vote for the overall bill. 

Congress reminds me of Don Corleone, the Godfather. He was fond of saying: When have I not accommodated a request from a friend for a favor ?All I ask is that sometime in the future I may call upon you to perform a future favor for me with no questions asked. 

Remember in 2010 when Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress had to pass the healthcare reform bill “to find out what’s in it”? We are just finding out what was in it, and have to live with the consequences.

Great Neck, N.Y. 


Fast-track trade could boost health industry

From Laura Lane, president, global public affairs, UPS, on behalf of the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness:

The Trade Promotion Authority legislation and initial hearing mark a healthy start to efforts aimed at opening up the global marketplace. But the Alliance for Healthcare Competitiveness believes one real opportunity within the overall trade agenda yet to be recognized involves the healthcare sector, the largest U.S. job-creating sector and a major global economic driver. 

If we now begin to look across the entire health “ecosystem,” in TPA and through dedicated health sector representation at the negotiation table, we stand to reap the benefits of reduced tariff and non-tariff barriers, and increased transparency, harmonization and ability to move life-saving products across borders efficiently. The legislation is an important start and marks a major advance. We look forward to supporting policymakers to untap further potential that will ultimately spur growth, drive innovation and improve the health of people worldwide.

 

Washington, D.C.