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June 5th, 2011

King and Boswell Flip-Flopping?

By Nathan Tucker

Past statements to the contrary notwithstanding, Representative Steve King (R) appears to have opened the door for unauthorized ground forces in Libya, and Representative Leonard Boswell (D) voted against raising the debt limit.  Only one of them, however, had the courage to explain his position to the people of Iowa.

When the U.S. House passed the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill before leaving for Memorial Day weekend, it included an amendment that denied funding for the use of ground forces in Libya except if the purpose is “limited solely to rescuing members of the United States Armed Forces from imminent danger.”

Every member of Iowa’s House delegation, regardless of party, voted for the amendment, save for Congressman King.  His vote appears odd, given that he told WHO Radio’s Jan Mickelson on March 23rd that if the mission is “expanded in scope or if there are going to be troops on the ground, then the president needs to go to Congress and get our consent.”  Again, on March 25th, he told Mickelson that “if it’s a longer operation and expands, then that is something he has to come to Congress for.”

Why, then, did Congressman King vote against the only sure measure that will compel President Obama to seek congressional authority before committing ground forces in Libya?  Because, Rep. King told The Iowa Republican (TIR) in an exclusive interview earlier this week, “it is not Congress’ job to micro-manage war.”  Instead, “Congress should give deference to the Commander-in-Chief when he is acting as the Commander-in-Chief.”  If authorizing a ground war is “micro-managing,” it is unclear what role, if any, King would leave to Congress.

Congressman King stated that he did not favor ground forces in Libya, nor did he think that Obama would introduce boots on the ground there.  When asked, however, if Obama would need to seek prior congressional authorization before introducing ground forces, King replied only that authorization would be needed at some point, though not necessarily before troops are committed.

Asked if Obama was in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, King stated that he was “skirting along the edge” and was not complying “to the letter.”  After our interview, the House finally saw fit on Friday to vote on two competing LIbyan resolutions, two weeks after military operations were to cease under the War Powers Resolution.

One of the resolutions, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), required the President to remove U.S. forces from Libya within 15 days.  The House had been scheduled to vote on this measure Wednesday, but the Republican leadership postponed it out of fear it might actually pass if members did not have a chance to vote on an alternative.  It was defeated 148-265 Friday, with Congressman Bruce Braley (D) the only member of Iowa’s House delegation voting in favor of it.

By a vote of 268-145 on Friday, the House instead passed a resolution introduced Thursday night by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.  The resolution determined that: “the President has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon United States national security interests for current United States military activities regarding Libya;” and that “the President has not sought, and Congress has not provided, authorization for the introduction or continued involvement of the United States Armed Forces in Libya.”

All five members of Iowa’s House delegation voted for Boehner’s resolution, which failed to establish deadlines for troop withdrawals or specify consequences should the President continue to ignore Congress.  The support of Democrat Congressmen Leonard Boswell and David Loebsack for such a tepid Congressional reprimand rather than the Kucinich resolution is hypocritical in light of their 2007 efforts to impeach Vice President Cheney for, among other things, threatening unauthorized military action against Iran.

Congressman King’s vote appears strange because the resolution states that “the President shall not deploy, establish, or maintain” ground forces in Iraq, congressional action King had decried as “micro-managing” in Rep. Conyer’s amendment to the 2012 defense budget.  When asked about this, King’s office “distinguished the Conyers’ amendment as a binding funding prohibition of ground troops for the entirety of the next fiscal year, while the Boehner resolution simply states the House’s position that the President not deploy ground forces in Libya, without completely tying the Commander-in-Chief’s hands through a funding prohibition.”

In other words, Congressman King is fine with Congress opining on the wisdom of a ground invasion, but actually enforcing that opinion is “micro-managing.”  So much for Congress’ constitutionally-delegated power to “declare war.”  But while his position may be unconstitutionally too deferential to the President and a departure of his previous statements to Mickelson, at least he was willing to explain his vote.  Congressman Boswell has shown no such courage when it comes to his vote on the debt ceiling.

Except for Congressman Bruce Braley (D), who was absent attending a funeral, every member of Iowa’s House delegation voted Tuesday against a “clean” debt vote (i.e., without accompanying spending cuts).  The odd thing is, last month Congressman Boswell signed a letter supporting the very thing he just voted against.

The letter reads, in part, that “we ask [House Democratic leadership] to convene a caucus to discuss and establish a Democratic position in favor of a clean extension of the debt ceiling.”  Leveraging or threatening to leverage “our duty to pay our bills to achieve a partisan advantage in budget disputes, jeopardizes the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

When asked on a recent appearance on Iowa Press how he intended to vote on raising the debt ceiling, Boswell replied:  “I think we must do it.  I think we must…I would hope, that ought to be just laid out there and dealt with as it is and not be attaching things to it and I hope that it will.”

TIR asked Boswell for comment on his blatant flip-flop but so far he has declined to respond.  He has also failed to post a statement on his website regarding his vote.  The only press release he issued the day of the vote was to congratulate “Principal Financial Group for receiving the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.”

Congressman Braley did issue a statement that “had I been present [for the vote], I would have voted against the Debt Limit Extension Act” because “I’m reluctant to raise the debt ceiling when we have no fiscally responsible plan to address our national debt.”  While Braley did not respond to TIR’s inquiries into what he meant by a “fiscally responsible plan,” it should be noted that he voted against the only 2012 budget proposed in Congress.  He explained that he voted against the Republican budget, which does not balance until 2040, because it did not include “shared sacrifice.”  Doubtless he meant that more should have been cut than what the Republicans proposed.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D) has yet to issue a statement on his vote against raising the debt ceiling.  He has also declined to respond to TIR’s inquiries into whether he would ever vote to raise the debt ceiling.  He did, interestingly, vote against both the Republican 2012 budget and the 2011 continuing resolution for “not working for Iowa families.”  If Loeback considers these budgets too austere for his taste, he owes it to Iowans to propose his own budget that would not only balance, but “work for Iowa families.”

On May 6th, Congressman Latham said on Iowa Press that he would not support raising the debt limit because it “is saying that we have maxed out our credit card, if you’re a family you’ve maxed out your credit card so rather than change your habits all you do is call the credit card company and say I want to borrow more.”

In his statement following his vote against raising the debt ceiling, however, Latham appeared to leave himself some wiggle room for voting for raising the limit in the future if Congress enacts “real common sense spending reforms.”  When TIR sought clarification, Latham’s office replied that “negotiations on spending reforms and cuts are ongoing, and he will not engage in speculation on any proposal until it is presented to him to consider as finalized.”

In addition to his public statement following the vote, Congressman King told TIR that a debt ceiling vote should be off the table until military pay and our country’s full faith and credit were guaranteed.  Even if those two measures went into effect, he would only be willing to support raising the debt ceiling if it defunded ObamaCare, imposed spending caps, and Congress passed a balanced budget amendment.  Of course, those three things would, for all practical purposes, become a reality by simply not voting for raising the debt limit in the first place.

It is refreshing for a congressman to be willing to defend his votes, and Iowa’s Democrat congressmen should be willing to be as courageous as Rep. King and answer tough questions about their positions.  Sadly, they have become too accustomed to the mainstream media giving them a free pass.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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