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David Swanson: The Bills That Can End the War

The Bills That Can End the War

By David Swanson

Senator Feingold held a hearing on the topic yesterday and plans to introduce a bill today to end the war by denying the President the money to continue it. Congress Members Lynn Woolsey, Jim McGovern, and Jerrold Nadler have bills in the House to do the same. But the bills are not all the same.

Congressman Nadler's bill, introduced with Congressman Maurice Hinchey, is the newest, and he was the slowest coming to the issue. There are other members disinclined to work with him, but he makes a persuasive case for the merits of his bill. It may very well be the best crafted piece of legislation, and – in any event – with so many lives on the line we can expect those Congress Members who oppose the war to sign onto each other's bills. The Democrats place such a value on collegiality that they are declining to use subpoenas in investigating the Bush Administration; surely they can behave well toward each other for the sake of the men and women whose lives are on the line. Not knowing which bill(s) will succeed, it's useful to have more than one in play, and signing onto bills costs Congress Members' offices 60 seconds of work.

Nadler's bill, H.R. 455, does not cut off funding. Rather, it limits what any Iraq funding can be spent on to the following expenditures:

(A) the continued protection of members of the Armed Forces who are in Iraq pending their withdrawal pursuant to the schedule required by subparagraph (B); and
(B) the safe and orderly withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq pursuant to a schedule that provides for commencement of the withdrawal not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and completion not later than December 31, 2007.

The bill bars any increase in the number of troops in Iraq, and makes exceptions to allow spending funds to engage in consultations, to provide money or equipment to Iraqi security forces, or to provide economic or reconstruction assistance.

This bill is crafted as an amendment to a supplemental spending bill. According to Nadler, you can simply remove the headline at the top and introduce it as an amendment to that bill. So, if Nadler's bill and others like it are not passed, and if the supplemental cannot be voted down, this bill can be added to the supplemental, thus making a yes vote on the supplemental a vote to end the war this year. Bush would have a choice between signing a bill to end the war, vetoing a bill providing the money he needs to continue the war, or going outside the rule of law in a manner that even Congress might be disturbed by.

Nadler's bill is also crafted in such a way that it does not attempt to do anything that any Constitutional scholars have ever disputed that Congress has the right to do. While Woolsey's and McGovern's bills instruct the President to end the war on a timetable, and then cut off the funding after the troops have been brought home, Nadler's limits the funding to protecting the troops and bringing them home. This is Constitutionally solider ground. It is possible that passage of Woolsey's or McGovern's bill would result in a court case rather than a troop withdrawal. And we already know the Democrats don't want court cases. If they did, they'd be issuing subpoenas.

That being said, Woolsey's and McGovern's bills have advantages that Nadler's does not, apart from advantages of politics on the Hill. McGovern's includes exceptions for guarding the embassy and for the Army Corps of Engineers that Nadler should add to his. McGovern's bill is here:

Woolsey's is a very different sort of bill, and it is difficult to predict whether it will gain support more swiftly or less. Woolsey's bill includes provisions for a range of needs, including health care for our veterans. Woolsey's bill is a complete plan for Iraq, and therefore immune from numerous criticisms and subject to numerous criticisms. You can read about it at


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