Make Peace, Not War

Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Since then, thousands of American troops have been killed and injured and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost in the Middle East. It took an ambush in Niger (and fumbled condolence phone call) to get Congress to schedule a hearing on the 60-words long authorization that has enabled presidents to launch more than 37 military campaigns in the past sixteen years.

But a Congressional hearing doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods; hawks want to expand the scope of the authorization and if they prevail, it’s round infinity in the dead end war on terror. We must all demand a repeal of this blank check for the President, and Congress has to do its job. Hiding behind 4-star generals was not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote that Congress had the power

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

With a dangerously out-of-touch and unstable Commander in Chief, we can not continue to be complicit when even those charged with oversight can’t keep track of where our military is deployed, let alone explain why!

For 16 YEARS our own Representative Barbara Lee has fearlessly pushed to revisit this dangerously overbroad war authorization. Let’s give her our full support and demand a full repeal.

Please call Senators Feinstein and Harris, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell, and say:

My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of  Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask [ ] to support a full repeal of the Authorization of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11. The 16 year old AUMF is a blank check to wage war. Giving this President such latitude is a risk to national and global security. His disregard for our military service-members and their families (evidenced by his reaction to the ambush in Niger), civilians caught in the crossfire, and provocative statements to other foreign powers show that he is incapable of the responsibility of leading a nation at war.  Please call for repeal of 2001 AUMF.

Indivisible East Bay Meets With Sen Harris’s Staff

Meeting with Daniel Chen

Walking into the IEB meeting with Daniel Chen, Senator Kamala Harris’s District Director on August 2, 2017, we had varying opinions on most issues we wanted to discuss – but we were INDIVISIBLY united on one question: when would Senator Harris hold a Bay Area Town Hall?

Unfortunately we left the meeting without an answer. Daniel clearly heard our message – it is not acceptable that Senator Harris hasn’t held ANY town halls in Northern California – but the most he would say was that an August Town Hall was a “number one priority” for Harris.

Daniel didn’t give many firm answers to the rest of our questions, but he took notes and said he’d convey our suggestions and concerns to the Senator.

Meeting with Daniel Chen

A rundown of the main issues we covered:

  • Health Care: We asked Senator Harris to join Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in committing to make no cuts to Medicaid before agreeing to any bipartisan health care bill. Daniel acknowledged and thanked Indivisible’s extensive grassroots work fighting for our health care.
  • Budget and Defense Spending: Daniel will ask Harris to issue a statement on why she agreed to co-sponsor Senate Bill 1414. The SHIPS Act mandates expansion of military spending on battle force ships, up from 276 to support a minimum of 355. The bill is primarily a reward to military contractors.
  • Department of Homeland Security Oversight: Daniel said that the Senator is currently mainly focused on retaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She is aware that ICE and border control have been turning away asylum seekers without granting legally mandated hearings, and she’s seeking documentation of this in the field. Daniel will convey our suggestion that she consider visiting the border to greet asylum seekers.
  • Defense Appropriations and Constitutional Role of Congress: We expressed our concern that the executive branch’s impulsive, undisciplined, and unreliable approach to foreign policy is leading to escalated U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad without strategy or accountability. Daniel will talk to the Senator about supporting a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, work that Rep. Barbara Lee has been doing for years and that recently gained significant support from both sides of the aisle before being removed from the House Defense Appropriations Bill at the direction of Paul Ryan.
  • LGBTQ Rights: Daniel will convey our request that Harris co-sponsor S. 1303. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act prohibits discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
  • Reproductive Rights: He will also convey our deep concern about the DCCC’s announcement that they’re willing to fund Democratic candidates who don’t support abortion rights, and about the failure to mention abortion rights in the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda. We stated that abortion rights should definitely be a litmus test for Dem candidates.
  • Obstruction of Justice: We were disappointed by Harris’s vote to confirm Christopher Wray as the new FBI Director. Daniel told us she was convinced by his responses at the hearing that Wray would remain independent, and gave us her statement regarding her vote.

It’s nearly a week since we met with Daniel, and still no word on an August recess Town Hall with Senator Harris. Please contact Senator Harris and tell her you want her to meet with her Bay Area constituents!

Update: Senator Harris asked for constituent input on priorities, please use this form to give her feedback.

Barbara Lee Speaks for the Constitution

Update: Today, August 8, we heard from the President the threat to unleash “Fire and Fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea.  This completely unhinged and destabilizing statement reminds us again of the need for Congress to re-assert its constitutionally mandated power to authorize and regulate military force.  All our members of Congress would be well advised to take up and pass immediately the bill banning presidential nuclear first strike authored by another California legislator, Ted Lieu (a senate version of the bill was introduced by Ed Markey of Massachusetts).

For the first time in almost sixteen years, there’s a chance for a real debate in the Congress about our seemingly endless war in the Middle East – thanks to East Bay hero Rep. Barbara Lee.

Regulation of the military as well as authorization and funding of war is a power granted solely to Congress in Article I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution; yet under the hastily drawn 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the President has been able to act unilaterally to commit blood and treasure without Congress’s approval. CA-13’s Rep. Lee has toiled, often alone, to force a debate on this issue on the House floor, and now Congress may finally follow her lead and do its job after too many years of silence. On June 29, a House Appropriations Committee meeting on Defense spending gave Rep. Lee the go-ahead (and a round of applause) for an amendment to the FY 2018 defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF. All the Committee Democrats and all but one of Rep. Lee’s GOP colleagues joined in supporting this amendment, which would give Congress eight months to debate and formulate a new, more targeted Authorization for use of military force for current activities in the Middle East.

Though the amendment’s passage out of committee is a significant milestone, it by no means signals smooth sailing and final passage. There are already objections to authorization (or de-authorization language) in a spending bill, and its ultimate fate still depends on the rest of the House and Senate. But this is at last the start of a real and serious debate within and without the halls of Congress about not just the legality but the prudence of granting the executive unlimited war powers authorization. Whatever procedural objections members of Congress may have to the Lee Amendment, they will will have to weigh that objection against a Commander in Chief who lacks the attention span and skill needed to oversee an expansive war in the Middle East.

Though often dismissed as a Bay Area radical, Barbara Lee’s consistent and dogged leadership on repeal of the 2001 AUMF these last fifteen-plus years shows her to be the real steward of the Constitution. Congress has both the legal and moral authority to check the executive – if only it would exercise that authority. We owe it to Barbara Lee to advocate for not just the amendment but also for Constitutional constraint of the executive.