Friday, February 16, 2007

Jon Tester and Max Baucus rearrange their schedules (so they can do nothing?)

Montana Headlines has already written about the choices faced by Congress regarding Iraq, and specifically about the decision faced by our own Congressional delegation on whether to behave like men or mice (or should it be weasels? -- these mammalian similes can get complicated.)

Sen. Baucus and Tester can perhaps be forgiven for the confusion they have shown thus far, since they come from a state Democratic party with a good number of members who don't understand the Constitution -- you know, that part in Section I, article 10 on powers prohibited of states. In it, the states are specifically prohibited from engaging in an array of military, war, and foreign policy actions and decisions -- actions and decisions delegated to the federal government.

We agree with the testimony given by Sen. Jim Schockley, R-Victor, this week in Helena at the committee meeting in question. He essentially stated that if our state government wants the federal government to stay out of its business, our state government should stay out of the federal government's business.

This of course hasn't stopped some Montana Democrats from drafting a "non-binding resolution" in the state Senate to instruct the U.S. Commander-in-chief on how to conduct military operations. We'd like to say that we laughed while watching on television the testimony going on up in Helena, but that degree of ignorance -- however ponderously earnest the associated intentions are -- is never terribly funny.

Getting back to our U.S. Senators, who do have authority under the Constitution to do something about the war. Both are apparently rearranging their schedules in order to "debate the war."

Would that it were so. The Congress, as we have pointed out before, has the power to declare war (or authorize a military action, in modern parlance) -- and thus presumably the power to declare that a state of war no longer exists (i.e. deauthorize an action.)

Congress furthermore has the power of the purse, and the purse should logically and morally follow what Congress authorizes. If a war is authorized, it should be funded. If authorization is withdrawn, funding should be withdrawn.

The President has the duty as Commander-in-chief of the armed forces to prosecute a war or military action that Congress has authorized. By extension, he has the duty to withdraw troops in an orderly and safe fashion from any action that Congress has deauthorized.

But don't look for any such clear Constitutional thinking from our Montana Senators. Look for them to pontificate for the television cameras and vote for politically evasive "non-binding resolutions." Our state Senate's resolution on Iraq can only possibly be non-binding, since it has no authority to vote on binding resolutions. The U.S. Senate, however, has precisely that authority, so its members have no such excuse.

Sens. Baucus and Tester haven't so far shown the courage, standing before Montanans, to vote to deauthorize and defund the war. Nor have they so far shown the courage, standing before the national Democratic party, to support the commander-in-chief who is prosecuting a war authorized by Congress.

Rightly or wrongly, President Bush is following the courage of his convictions in sending more troops to Iraq to try to stabilize the situation. If Sens. Baucus and Tester have the courage of their convictions (especially Tester, since he is the one who has sounded off about this the most over the last year), they will commit to doing something real and not abdicate their Constitutional responsibilities.

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