The Republican majority on the House International Relations Committee today again refused to investigate its own party. Barely.
With a 4-member advantage on the IR committee over the Democrats, the GOP managed to hang on to a 25 to 23 vote win, defeating H.Res. 505, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's attempt to actually investigate the secret activities of the WHIG, his Resolution of Inquiry (ROI) to look into the White House Iraq Group. More than 100 House Democrats joined Kucinich in cosponsoring this resolution, even before it never made it to the floor!
Only 2 Republicans stood up for finding out the truth--Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Paul, who seems to be an extremely rare species, an honest conservative who is angry about the lies that took us to war, even had the decency to publicly compliment Kucinich for being consistent by not just investigating the war now but also opposing it beforehand.
The Democrats on the committee were united--at least those who bothered to show up. Every single Republican showed, with 25 of them determined to continue their whitewash for the White House. But for some strange reason, 2 Democrats on the committee--Rep. Faleomavaega and Rep. Berman--were too burdened with other pressing concerns to bother showing up to vote.
Rep. Faleomavaega is from American Samoa, and this is the second close ROI vote in recent weeks that he has skipped. If these committee votes are too troublesome for him, perhaps he should give up that slot?
Rep. Berman is, frankly, pressing his luck. As angry as grassroots Democrats are about this war, especially in California, he should be going out of his way to atone for his original vote in support of the war. Instead he pulls stunts like this, skipping out on a close vote aimed at forcing the White House to come clean about their lies. It's almost like he's begging for a primary opponent....
Here are some of the "highlights" of the debate--a debate which was cut short, by the way, by some underhanded manipulation by Chairman Henry Hyde, of right-to-life and impeachment fame.
Hyde had barely finished telling the ranking minority member, Rep. Lantos, that he was probably going to allow some more discussion, then take a recess so that members could vote, and reconvene later after enough time for them to eat. Barely had 3 or 4 Democrats wandered out of the room (a common occurrence on both sides, since members are constantly wandering out in the back hallway to go make phone calls or meet visitors or talk to staffers), when the GOP committee staff started overtly counting heads. Seconds later, Rep. Rohrabacher called the question, forcing a vote.
The net effect of these maneuvers was not only that Hyde misled Lantos, a serious breach of etiquette; it was that several Democrats, including Lantos, were not even in the room the first time their names were called to vote. And though Lantos made it back in time to record his vote, 4 Democrats did not. Since all Republicans were present at the time of the vote--but rarely otherwise, as members on both sides are in and out the whole time--it does not take a paranoid to suspect the vote was called at that moment on purpose.
The result: the Democrats lost the first vote 19-25. The second vote, which sealed the deal minutes later, was also lost, but only by the more accurate 23-25 margin, as the 4 members who had been there made it back.
*Chairman Hyde early on distinguished himself with his commentary, too, pronouncing at one point that "I don't care how we got in [to Iraq]."
*Rep. Ros-Lehtinen argued that the Iraq War was "keeping the terrorists on the run." This is a subject she knows something about, since she has personally interceded on behalf of more "terrorists on the run" than perhaps any other sitting House member. Ros-Lehtinen is from the Miami area, and has fought hard to allow known anti-Castro terrorists to enter the U.S., to stay here against the rules, and to move into her district.
*Rep. Delahunt, a Democrat from MA, noted that the GOP-controlled Congress and committee had "failed in our responsibilities" to examine the evidence about the rush to war.
*Rep. Dan Burton, the dreaded pumpkin assassin of the Clinton years, accused the Democrats of "selective memory loss"; talk about the pumpkin calling the kettle orange.
*Rep. Ackerman of NY, a Democrat who voted to go to war, spoke fiercely of the lies of the President and his aides, of a coverup, of a whitewash. This irritated CA Republican Rohrabacher, who wanted to know what Ackerman meant by lying, if he was accusing the President of knowing one thing but saying another. The obvious answer here was yes, but after some back and forth, Ackerman said he defined lying as not telling the truth. At that point, Rohrabacher adopted a weird line of attack, challenging Ackerman's accusation by suggesting that maybe the President hadn't lied, maybe he hadn't known his facts were wrong. Perhaps the Republicans intend to continue to try to blame George Tenet and the CIA for their bad intelligence, though the fact they won't look into it much suggests they don't really believe it; but perhaps, when their backs are to the wall, they are going to try the excuse that the President was too stupid to know his facts were wrong.
*It took Rep. Paul, a libertarian Republican from TX, to point out a couple obvious things: Americans deserve to know how we were taken to war; the Congress let the President go to war, instead of asserting its Constitutional right to declare war (the basis of the lawsuit that fellow AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder and possible MA Secretary of State candidate John Bonifaz brought in early 2003 in an attempt to stop the war from starting); and we need to change our foreign policy. He also noted that between 2000 and 2004, he had voted alone 126 times, by far the most of anyone in Congress--the man does have principles.
*And Rep. Shelley Berkley of NV, a Democrat who supported the Kucinich ROI, didn't just vote no on the first motion (where the Democrats were voting "no")--she voted "heck, no!". As Molly Ivins might say, good on ya, Shelley...
Let me end this post with one observation--the teams are getting testy. I'd say this is a good thing--the House Democrats have not been testy enough, for far too long, and they are beginning to show their resentment of GOP rules manipulations and whitewashing.
In addition, at one point Rep. Meeks of NY asked out loud, "are you guys getting nervous?", a pointed reference to their attempt to ram through the vote without enough debate. Perhaps it is finally beginning to dawn on the House Republicans that their leader DeLay has been indicted, while the President they have been covering for has the popularity of Nixon during Watergate--as yesterday's election results demonstrated.
And the whitewash on the White House is beginning to crack and chip off...