In this time when the federal debt is exploding and it seems like not much is going well for libertarian leaning Republicans, four people have presented a nice Christmas gift to those who want to see politicians in Washington fight for liberty. The president and three members of Congress have fought this week to force transparency in Congress, pull the troops home from an undeclared war in Syria and limit the power of the federal government. The fact that the libertarian leaning members of Congress are digging in and fighting gives hope for 2019 being a good year for limited government.
Transparency is something that is lost by the elites of both parties when passing legislation at the end of a session. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) sat on the House floor this week and demanded roll call votes on a series of year end, last minute, pieces of legislation being pushed out by the House of Representatives. Manu Raju of CNN tweeted “House members are furious at Thomas Massie right now. Several have expressed displeasure to him.” Massie was conducting this “Vote-A-Buster” to protest the Republican leadership’s move to deny votes on a resolution pulling U.S. support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Constitutional conservatives like Massie believe that the Constitution places the power to declare war in Congress, not the president. Article I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution places the enumerated power in Congress “the power to declare war.” Massie is spot on to force Congress to take votes to make members know that there are painful consequences from ignoring their constitutional duties.
All Rep. Massie was doing was forcing the House to follow the rules and have recorded votes on legislation. As he pointed out, “the Constitution requires a quorum to do business.” The representative from Kentucky sat on the floor for over six hours forcing vote after vote to make the point that Congress both needs to actually go on the record when passing bills and has ignored the Constitutional responsibility to declare war when our forces are in harm’s way. It is an outrage that this Congress has repeatedly shirked responsibility for an exploding debt and the tacit approval of the Executive Branch committing troops in nations with no declaration of war.
Ending the U.S. engagement in Syria was another good development this week. President Donald J. Trump stood up and kept an important campaign promise when he announced a full pull out of troops in Syria. Hawkish Republicans who want to be in every nation all the time objected to the president’s rational decision to declare victory and pull out. Predictably, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opposed the decision and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) went as far as to claim on Fox “Do we fight them in Syria and Iraq or do we fight them eventually back on the streets of the United States?” Typical fear mongering by the hawkish wing of the Republican Party to claim that somehow if we don’t keep troops in Syria, or Afghanistan for that matter, forever, then we will have ISIS here in the United States. It is a similar argument when some claim that we are creating a “Power Vacuum” if we pull troops out of a foreign land and it logically follows that therefore we can never leave any country we are fighting in -- ever.
Another libertarianish Republican stood up an applauded the president’s action. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was spot on to argue on Fox that “we should not have to always fight everyone else’s battle and pay for it.” President Trump campaigned on not getting involved in a Syrian civil war and he has kept that promise. Many of the people on the left who you would think would support this idea have used this opportunity for partisan attacks. Liberal Senator Jeanne Shaheen claimed that the pullout was dangerous and premature. Some on the left are so blinded by partisanship and hatred of President Trump that they can’t bring themselves to praise him when he takes our troops out of harm’s way. One can only hope that a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is coming in 2019.
Finally, during the debate on the passed criminal justice reform bill, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) attempted to attach an amendment that would have, according to The Denver Post, “remove(d) the threat of federal prosecution in states where cannabis is legal and lift restrictions on federally insured banks, which are currently barred from working with marijuana businesses.” This is a version of something called The STATES Act, a bipartisan measure to restore federalism in marijuana laws. Sen. Gardner was blocked by the Republican leadership from offering his amendment, yet he did make a strong effort to commence debate on the idea that states are a better place to enforce and make decisions on the degree to which a state will allow medical and adult use marijuana. This is an overdue idea to limit the scope of the federal government and restore the traditional police powers back to the people and the states.
For those who treasure liberty, they can thank President Trump, Sens. Paul, Gardner and Rep. Massie for giving them a Christmas present of fighting for limited constitutional government and lessening foreign entanglements.