Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"A republic, if you can keep it:" Two tentative, but encouraging, bits of news

(Updated below.)

From MyDD, but picked up and circulating all around the net, comes word that on the House Armed Services Committee, chairman Ike Skelton has the votes to include restoration of habeas corpus back into the authorization bill now going through markup.

MyDD lists all the players and rightly encourages everyone to contact their representative on this. Although, actually--since we're debating a question that's absolutely fundamental to whether we're going to live in a democracy or a dictatorship--phone calls seem awfully tame. Something more along the lines of a million people in a torchlight procession circling the White House seems in order.

If Turkey, with a little more than a quarter of our population, can turn out 750,000 people demonstrating in defense of the separation of church and state, as they did last month, surely we can find a million people for habeas corpus.

Still, seeing the Democrats seizing the opportunity to restore the defining principle of civilized nations to America is a sign of hope.

Of course, the short-term fate of the authorization bill, if passed with the restoration of habeas corpus, will be quick and unpleasant: Bush will either veto it (more likely) or sign it in tandem with a "signing statement" saying he considers himself under no obligation to abide by the terms of the law regarding habeas.

Which brings us to the second encouraging bit of news:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing statement as a way of sidestepping a carefully crafted compromise Iraq war spending bill.

Pelosi recently told a group of liberal bloggers, “We can take the president to court” if he issues a signing statement, according to Kid Oakland, a blogger who covered Pelosi’s remarks for the liberal website

“The president has made excessive use of signing statements and Congress is considering ways to respond to this executive-branch overreaching,” a spokesman for Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami, said. “Whether through the oversight or appropriations process or by enacting new legislation, the Democratic Congress will challenge the president’s non-enforcement of the laws.”

It is a scenario for which few lawmakers have planned. Indicating that he may consider attaching a signing statement to a future supplemental spending measure, Bush last week wrote in his veto message, “This legislation is unconstitutional because it purports to direct the conduct of operations of the war in a way that infringes upon the powers vested in the presidency.”

A lawsuit could be seen as part of the Democrats’ larger political strategy to pressure — through a series of votes on funding the war — congressional Republicans to break with Bush over Iraq.

This is a matter of political strategy, yes; but it's much, much more. It's also about blocking Bush and his people from their steady march down the path of destroying our form of government.

Go get 'em, Pelosi.

Let's get this constitutional crisis to the Supreme Court where it belongs, where we can get some resolution and find out what kind of country we live in. And let's do it before Bush has the chance to stack the deck any further in his favor.

Update: The word from mcjoan is that the habeas corpus language isn't going to be in the authorization bill. The fight goes on. All the more reason for Pelosi to open up the second front in courts.

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