War or Diplomacy--What Will it be, Senator?
By Kate Gould on 11/22/2011 @ 11:41 AM
After Thanksgiving, your senators will cast some of his or her most important votes on war and peace of the year, so this is a crucial time to weigh in, and ask your senators to vote to end current wars and prevent new ones.
Last week the Senate stopped debate on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which we expected to be a lightening rod for amendments to undermine diplomacy, reduce the possibility of a lasting peace in the Middle East and increase the possibility of war with Iran. Thank you to the more than 2,000 people who took action on FCNL's alert "War or Diplomacy? Senate prepares to Vote" last week to ask senators to support diplomacy, and reject these kinds of anti-peace amendments. None of the amendments we were concerned about were voted on, and we don't expect this bill to be back on the Senate floor any time soon. (For more on what happened, see below.)
While we are glad these votes didn't happen last week, the Senate is still expected to vote on at least one of those dangerous measures we warned you about last week: the move to sanction Iran's Central Bank. After Thanksgiving, the Senate will likely take up consideration of two rival sanctions amendments: one introduced by Senators Mark Kirk (IL) and Mitch McConnell (KY) and another introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ).
Both initiatives would bind the administration to impose Central Bank sanctions but the Menendez amendment would provide the president with greater waiver authority. Just yesterday, the administration unleashed sweeping new Iran sanctions, however, it has opposed sanctioning Iran's Central Bank--which some U.S. officials call "the nuclear option"--because of the devastating impact these sanctions would have for the U.S. and global economy.
We also expect at least two amendments on ending current wars, that we support:
- Senator Jeff Merkley's (OR) amendment for expediting U.S. Military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- Senator Rand Paul's (KY) amendment to revoke the 2002 authorization of the use of force in Iraq.
Please take 60 seconds to call your senators, using FCNL's toll-free number: 1-877-429-0678 and deliver a message like this one:
"Please tell the senator to vote yes on Sen. Merkley's amendment to expedite Afghanistan withdrawal, yes on Sen. Paul's amendment to revoke the authorization of the use of force in Iraq, and no on amendments to sanction Iran's Central Bank”.
For updates on these and other amendments to the military authorization bill, see FY2012 Military Authorization Bill: Amendments to Watch.
Success: International Affairs Funding Bill Off the Floor
For supporters of peaceful U.S. engagement with the world, it is excellent news that the international affairs funding bill (the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill) was not debated on the Senate floor, and is unlikely to come to the floor in the future. If it were, the debate would have led to a circus of anti-U.N. grandstanding, and a deluge of amendments to cut funding for the U.N. and other international engagement programs.
While the Senate was all set to debate these dangerous amendments, at the last minute, the package of appropriations bills that included the international affairs budget fell apart over disputes on procedure and Cuba trade sanctions. (For more on this, see Josh Rogin’s article “Inside the State Department’s funding bill SNAFU”).
It's important to note, however, that these disputes had absolutely nothing to do with the international affairs funding bill itself, and that these procedural disputes would likely not have been the end of it had there not been an outpouring of messages from aid agencies, administration officials, and also from the grassroots (thank you to those who took action!) against allowing the international affairs funding bill to the slashed to pieces on the floor of the Senate in the first place.
Repeal Anti-U.N. Laws!
However, the international affairs funding bill is still at risk of being slashed in the Senate backrooms, and if your senator or representative has a leadership role on the Senate or House State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, then you have a particularly important role to play in what goes on in those backrooms. The Senate and House versions of the State and Foreign Operations bills will soon have to be "conferenced", which means the House and Senate conferees, which in this case would likely be lead House and Senate appropriators, will have to agree on a compromise bill that can be approved by both houses of Congress, before it is sent to the president and enacted into law.
Care about U.N. funding but don't have a member of Congress on the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee? Some of the greatest threats to U.N. Funding today is not a bill in the works but outdated, anti-U.N. laws that are already on the books, jeopardizing the future of U.S. engagement with the U.N.
These laws prohibit U.S. funding for any U.N. body that votes for Palestinian inclusion, which has already led to the U.S. eliminating its funding for UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural and scientific agency.
You can take action and urge your members of Congress to repeal these anti-U.N. laws here, to ensure that the U.S. continues to pay its membership dues in full and on time to U.N. agencies which are so crucial to global stability. Also, check out FCNL's talking points on U.N. funding. Congress made these laws, and Congress must change them to support diplomacy, and end current wars and prevent new ones.