Speaker Hunt (almost) endorses HB 2556 (Keep the Guard Home)

T.A. Barnhart

Speaker of the House Dave Hunt came this close to endorsing HB 2556 on Saturday. Here is the Speaker said:

"I'm confident I'll support whatever comes out of the Rules Committee."

The Speaker joined Rep Jules Bailey (D-42) for "Java with Jules" to talk to constituents and others about the Legislature's work mid-session. While economic issues were a part of almost every discussion, the topic of the Oregon National Guard's upcoming deployment to Iraq had nothing to do with the economy.

"Can you," the Speaker was asked by Dan Handelman of Oregon Peace & Justice Works, the main force behind HB 2556 (Keep the Guard Home), "assure us you will support this bill?" Here are the Speaker's words in full:

"Two years ago, we passed a resolution specifically condemning the war and specifically talking about the negative impacts of the war has had on Oregon communities, on Oregon National Guard members directly, on other reservists from Oregon. And also on the Iraqi citizen, who've been killed, which we often forget when we talk about impacts on ourselves.

"This is probably one of the most frustrating areas as a legislator, a state legislator, because we don't control foreign policy. Of course, those in Congress may feel like they don't control it either for the past eight years. But we don't have control of the foreign policy, but we definitely have to deal with the impacts: the impacts in terms of health care, the impacts in terms of homelessness .. and it's health care both on the fiscal and mental health side of the equation. The impacts on so many of these folks coming back, having lost their jobs, unemployed, therefore needing additional public assistance.

"So we've spent a lot of time ... we have a specific Veterans Committee that has helped push us and guide us to be making the investments in helping assist those who are coming back, those veterans who are coming back, the families of those who are already gone. I'm confident the Rules Committee is going to come out with a bill, I don't know what the form of it is going to be, I haven't told them what it should be. I'm sure I'll support it when it comes out. There are a lot of very thoughtful folks on that committee."

That's not an unequivocal Yes, but for a politician in Dave Hunt's position, it may be as close as you can get on a controversial bill like HB2556.

Bill locked in Rules Committee

Because HB 2556 (and HR 4) was sent to the Rules Committee, the Tuesday deadline to get bills out of committee does not apply (nor does it for those in the Revenue Committee). But time running out; the session will compress greatly from here. We need to get this bill on to the floor for a vote, but first it has to get to a committee work session. Why? Because it needs to be amended and then moved out for a House vote.

During the hearing last month on HB 2556, Rep Chip Shields, chief sponsor of the bill, and Rep Dennis Richardson, whose support for keeping the Guard home comes from a libertarian-states rights perspective, agreed to amend the bill thusly:

The organized militia is limited to service on behalf of the State of Oregon unless the organized militia is called into federal service pursuant to a valid Congressional enactment consistent with the United States Constitution.

(That's not necessarily the final wording, but it is what the two representatives will be presenting.)

HB 2556, once signed into law, will require the Governor to mobilize the Oregon National Guard only if a valid federal authorization exists, such as the one passed to invade Iraq (yes, many of us believe that authorization was based on lies but it was legally enacted). And while those of us supporting the "Keep the Guard Home Campaign" do not believe that authorization is valid now that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown (and executed) and that the WMDs are finally proven to have been as real as Easter Bunny droppings, it is clear that stopping the July deployment is virtually impossible.

But what about the next deployment, and the next false war?

The possibility is very real that one day in the future, another misguided president will seek to abuse his or her power and federalize National Guards without proper authorization. HB 2556, once signed into law, will prohibit an unlawful and unconstitutional deployment of our Guard. And of equal importance, if Oregon can pass this law, other states gain impetus to do the same. So while we may not be able to keep the Guard home now, we can send the message, and create the legal groundwork, to prevent future unlawful deployments.

I want to repeat the words of Rep Bailey when he testified before the Rules Committee last month:

We support our troops. We honor our troops. Our troops are doing ... what we ask them to do. This bill is not ... a referendum on particular conflicts. This bill is about protecting those who are protecting us in the National Guard. And sometimes when they do what we ask of them, sometimes they are doing what the Federal government asks of them, and sometimes they are doing what the State of Oregon asks of them. What these bills do is allow for a determination to be made about which is which.

Please contact your representative and insist they support HB 2556. Ask them to contact Rep Roblan and ask him to schedule a work session so this bill can move forward. We believe we have enough votes to pass this bill; Chair Roblan just needs to have enough supporters request the work session. Call your representative and make sure he or she does just that.

In two months, our fellow Oregonians will be heading to war in the largest deployment of Oregon National Guard troops since WWII. Those of us who who honor their service, and who believe in the rule of law, owe it to them to ensure the National Guard is called to service only when a lawful authorization exists. HB 2556 codifies that principle into Oregon law.

  • mlw (unverified)

    So, given that a valid authorization exists, this would be in the mode of a pointless symbolic gesture? And, given that the Guard is overwhelmingly federally funded, will we be happy when the federal government starts cutting funding for the Oregon Guard because of an obstructionist state legislature? Should we go back to the Vietnam days when the Guard was away to avoid military service? How about they just pass a non-binding resolution disapproving of the war (again)?

  • (Show?)

    The validity of the existing authorization is questionable.

  • (Show?)

    Kevin - It may be questionable, but it is completely enforceable.

    This bill is an important statement to make on behalf of our citizen soldiers, and we all hold them in very high regard.

    But please, let's not pretend like this bill will make a bit of actual difference when this president or the next one calls them up for duty. The federal government does not need our permission to activate the National Guard.

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    why this matters for the future is two-fold. first, if Oregon passes this, other states will follow. look at gay marriage (or as it should be called, marriage equality): one state moved forward, more are following. this has to be a multi-state effort.

    once it is a multi-state effort, if there is a future attempt to call up any National Guard, states will be in a position to demand, under state law, that valid authorization exist. whatever the courts might end up saying, it will be enough of a battle to (one hopes) prevent the passage of a bogus, unjustified and stupid authorization like they did in 2003.

    and i also believe 2556 sends the message that we value our Guard -- my son, so many other sons & daughters -- too much to stand by while they are deployed without an authorization we feel is valid.

  • David Robinson (unverified)

    Debating this bill is not a fruitless waste of time. Our country has a rich history of debating the division of power, and this is an issue that must be debated. We already know the consequences of not having this legislation; we need to understand all potential consequences of enacting it before we do so.

    The most immediate and striking consequence is the loss of the federal share to support our National Guard. The federal share is in excess of 90% of the Oregon National Guard budget. The loss of even the smallest faction of this money will have grave consequences to our state, not just in our state budget but on the ability of our National Guard units to respond to local crisis and disasters. Having capable and credible representatives in DC will go a long way to holding the line on federal funding when political and military forces try to cut our funding.

    Quite a few of our National Guard troops rely on the small amount of money they receive from their service on weekends, during the summer, and during emergency recalls. Any loss of the federal share could significantly and negatively impact their lives. We are all for the troops and value their sacrifice and courage – let’s make sure that whatever solution we craft not only protects them from needless harm, let’s make sure we do not inadvertently put them out of their homes and onto the street.

    This bill, if enacted, will not stop the Federal Government from nationalizing state militias, but it will spark a renewed debate over when and how those militias are nationalized. We need this debate and we need to craft the correct solution – our State Representatives should not rush to judgment on this issue.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The Supreme Court has indicated clearly that states cannot resist federalization of the Guard under a valid Congressional authorization. HB2556 clarifies the governor's power to withhold National Guard when valid Congressional authorization is lacking. HR4 and SR1 declare that there is no valid authorization at present.

    Federal courts would ultimately decide the question should the legislation pass and the governor withhold our troops. Prevailing would not be a sure thing. Is it worth the risk to oppose 70 years of presidential war powers aggrandizement? I think so.

  • rlw (unverified)

    States Rights vs. Federalism rears its musty head.

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    The authorization for the Iraq invasion no longer is valid.
    T.A. Barnhart refers obliquely to this "now that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown (and executed) and that the WMDs are finally proven to have been as real as Easter Bunny droppings."

    To put that more formally, Congress authorized the use of military force in Iraq thus (116 STAT. 1500 PUBLIC LAW 107–243—OCT. 16, 2002:

    SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. (a) AUTHORIZATION .—The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to— (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

    The preamble clauses of the resolution define the threats posed by Iraq to the U.S. as possession and programs to develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and harboring international terrorists. The WMDs were phantoms, and Iraq no longer has WMD programs, and the Iraqi government is not harboring terrorists. The "relevant" Security Council resolutions have been repealed and / or refer to conditions and activities in which the government of Iraq is not engaged.

    Many of us believe that this AUMF is no longer valid, and extensive legal reasoning has been developed on that point. No doubt there are legal counter-arguments. But part of the point of passing this law would be to create the possibility of testing those legal arguments in court.

    As T.A. mentions, the Oregon campaign for this type of law is part of a national movement, with efforts in various stages going on in 22 states now. Oregon's passing this law will increase the chances in the other states, and the likelihood of an eventual test case.

    Such a test case would have two broad implications. One would be to more clearly define the limits, or lack of them, that Congressional authorizations of military force under the War Powers Act impose on presidential claims of warmaking powers under commander-in-chief doctrines.

    The other would relate to clarifying limits to the transformation of the roles of National Guard forces into extensions of the regular army in ways that would have been unimaginable 30 years ago.

    On both questions, forcing them into the courts would force healthy public policy debates over covertly creeping changes in recent decades that many of us think corrosive to the better parts of the Constitution, through the resurrection of imperial doctrines of presidential power and the militarization of society with the militarization of presidential power.

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