Archive for April 4th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

Montana Senate Democrats preserve same-day voter registration!

Thanks to Forward Montana for putting the email in my inbox announcing the death of HB 281, and who’s exactly right in claiming that this bill was an attack on the voting rights of young people, who are increasingly drifting away from the GOP.

“I think it’s important that we give everyone the opportunity to vote,” said Sen. Lynda Moss, D-Billings. “I just don’t support this bill.”

Democrats said that election officials should have approached the Legislature with a plan to fix same-day voting, such as more people to handle the long lines or other solutions.

D*mn straight, Senator Moss!

Republican Brad Johnson’s desire to shut down same-day voter registration is well-documented on this site. That voting precincts and county courthouses were overwhelmed by same-day registrants shows the success of the law, and the failure of the Secretary of State’s office to anticipate and properly prepare for the onslaught.

Furthermore, the allegations of possible voter fraud used by the right to trash same-day registration (and other such legislation) is pretty much an excuse used to disenfranchise voters (pdf) unfriendly to the Republican party – like the young.

Personally, I’d like to believe that I’d support this bill even if the reverse were true. I think that the more voters that participate, the better off we’ll be. It’s not just about voting, it’s about having a stake and an interest in government. The more people are involved, the better.

Congratulations are in order for the Montana Senate. Nicely done.

by Jay Stevens

I admit I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth with rightie blogger Montana Headlines. It’s good to have a quality foil in the Montana blogosphere, it keeps me on my toes.

The latest MH post was in response to my savaging of Barack Obama over his statements on Iraq War funding. (In which I do now admit I was a little over-heated. I like Obama.) In MH’s post, he questions whether Congress can Constitutionally deny funds to the Iraq War, and opines that Obama’s stance may, in fact, be the most politically astute:

Unless Congress is also prepared to pass a resolution that specifically de-authorizes the war, it is asking for a Constitutional crisis to have Congress merely defund the war. Any attached instructions for military commanders also are asking for a Constitutional crisis.

Consider: Congress has the constitutional authority and responsibility to declare war (and, as we have stated before, presumably to undeclare war), and it is tasked with raising funds to support the military. It was probably never contemplated by the Founders that the two might not go clearly hand-in-hand with each other.

Congress needs formally to “undeclare war” if it wants to make a defunding iron-clad….


[The President] can furthermore justifiably claim that the Constitution gives no authority to Congress to dictate how a military action is to be conducted. The Supreme Court is unlikely to come up with an emanation from a penumbra saying that Congress has somehow developed constitutional military command authority.

Man, I love me a good ole fashioned Constitutional debate!

So let us traipse over to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…


To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces…

It seems clear that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the scope of military action. With the original Iraqi War Resolution, Congress gave the President the authority to use force, if necessary, against the present danger of Iraq. (While I happen to think this Resolution void because of the manufacturing of danger by the administration, Congress does not.) A clear way to end the Iraq War, then, would be to pass a new resolution.

But this section also gives Congress the power to fund the military as it sees fit. Nowhere does the document state that Congress must fund the military to the President’s desires, nor does it deny Congress the authority to allocate the money where it sees fit. In fact, it seems clear that Congress’ control over funding is intended to serve as a check on the executive’s power to wage war.

Don’t believe me? You shouldn’t: I’m just some schmuck with a computer. But here’s what Alexander Hamilton had to say about Congress’ power to raise funds for the military in Federalist paper 24:

….in that clause which forbids the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up of troops without evident necessity.

Clearly Hamilton here sees Congressional control over funding a necessary check on the executive’s desire to build up an army or keep one in the field longer than necessary, as defined by Congress.

Then there’s Federalist paper 26:

The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.

Got that? Congress isn’t allowed to abrogate this authority to the executive. It’s not only acceptable to consider limiting funds for the military, such consideration is Constitutionally mandated.

Given that Congress can both dictate the scope and form of war and controls the funding of war, it seems clear that the recent Iraq War funding bill is constitutional. Congress can dictate to the President exactly how long he has to wage war in Iraq. Or, more specifically, the operations are up to the President; the goals and scope of the war is up to Congress.

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