by Kagro X
Here's five cents worth of political consulting right off the bat: In life, a focus on substance over style will generally serve you well. In politics, not so much. Style, it seems, is often enough mistaken for substance that they might well be mistaken for equally important. But get elected, and you'll soon learn that in parliamentary procedure, form is function.
Overlooked in the published analyses of last night's Iraq withdrawal vote (and surely those to come on Sunday) -- even those well-enough informed to distinguish between the substance of the Hunter and Murtha resolutions -- was any mention of the difference in their forms.
To be sure, there were differences in the language of these two "competing" bills. By "competing," of course, we mean that one was hogtied and tossed into the dungeon, while the other was carried before the GOP army as though it were the Ark of the Covenant, sent by God to make them invincible.
The Murtha resolution (H.J. Res. 73), as we all know, called for the termination of the deployment of American forces in Iraq, and for their redeployment at the earliest practicable date. In addition, the Murtha resolution makes provisions for maintaining a rapid deployment force in the region. The Hunter (H. Res. 571) resolution, by contrast, calls simply for the immediate termination of the deployment. A "poison pill" for anyone favoring withdrawal, but taking seriously Congressional responsibility for making such a withdrawal in orderly fashion, and with an eye toward maintaining the national security, both for us and for the Iraqis, whose national security we "broke," and according to Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn Rule," have therefore "bought."
Republicans would have us believe that the bills are nearly identicaly. Indeed, they did all they could to confuse the two, and try to convince the American people that the vote was on Murtha's resolution. A moment's glance at the two is all that's necessary to distinguish them:
Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";
Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;
Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;
Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;
Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency,
Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;
Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;
Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;
Therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:
Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.
Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that
the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
Hmm. Can you get wise to the existence of a substantial difference in one second or less?
But what does an analysis of form tell us that a reading of the substance might not? Consider the designations of these bills: H.J. Res. 73 versus H. Res. 571.
"H.J. Res." That's for "House Joint Resolution."
"H. Res." That's for "House Resolution."
What difference does that little word, "Joint" make? Anyone? Put your hand down, Masel. I know you know the real answer, but we're trying to be serious here.
Even if you don't know, you've probably picked it up instinctively from reading the language of the bill, even though I told you not to. You probably noticed that Hunter's bill says that, "it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment ... be terminated immediately," and that Murtha's says the deployment is terminated "by direction of Congress." And when it comes to the direction of a war, declared or otherwise, "by direction of Congress" means something, whereas the "sense of the House" means squat.
So, that's the difference. Murtha's resolution is a Joint Resolution -- that is, it needs to be passed jointly with the Senate, and once done, it goes to the president for signature. Hunter's resolution expresses the sense of the House, and... that's it. A House Resolution stops right there. It goes nowhere afterward. Not the Senate, not the president. Nowhere. To nobody. The "sense" of the House (such as it might be said to have, anyway) has been expressed, and we can all knock off for beers.
In other words, Hunter's resolution was non-binding. Murtha's was actually capable of getting something done with the force of law. The Hunter resolution was therefore an even bigger sham than widely believed.
Think anyone will get that right by tomorrow morning?
Of course not.
Thankfully, you read The Next Hurrah. And you can take that to your next cocktail party.