The Senate is set to consider Sen. Jim Webb’s amendment “requiring that active-duty troops and units have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas.” Under the current Pentagon policy, troops are deployed for 15 months, but receive just 12 months at home.
Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an adamant opponent of Webb’s pro-troop amendment, urged Congress to reject the measure:
The Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military and I hope we will steadfastly reject this kind of micromanagement, which would create chaos.
This morning on CNN, Webb rebutted McCain’s assertion that the Senate has no role in troop deployments:
Well, first of all, Sen. McCain, who I’ve known for 30 years, needs to read the Constitution. There is a provision in Article I, Section 8, which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the ground and naval forces. There’s precedent for this.
He also urged the President to “think twice” about vetoing the bill if it passes, since it would be “an expression of the Congress that basically said you can’t keep people in Iraq longer than you’re allowing them to be at home.” Watch it:
In July, Webb’s amendment received approval from the majority of the Senate — 56 votes — but was filibustered by the Republican leadership. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who supported the bill in July, has now said that is appeased by the administration’s token withdrawal and may vote against it.
Contact your senators and urge them to vote for Webb’s pro-troop amendment.
HOST: There have been questions about whether or not — in theory it sounds good, but whether it would work tactically. And yesterday in Ohio, Sen. John McCain, himself a war veteran, had this to say about the amendment. Let’s listen.
[McCAIN CLIP]: The Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military and I hope we will steadfastly reject this kind of micromanagement, which would create chaos.
HOST: That’s what he said. Are you micromanaging or overstepping your boundaries as a senator?
WEBB: Well, first of all, Sen. McCain, who I’ve known for 30 years, needs to read the Constitution. There is a provision in Article I, Section 8, which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the ground and naval forces. There’s precedent for this.
I used to run the mobilization programs in the Pentagon when I was Assistant Secretary of Defense –
HOST: Why did it fail earlier this summer then, if it’s not contentious?
WEBB: Well, because the Iraq war is contentious. And it was roughly along party lines — although we did get seven Republicans for it — and I think that from then until now, hopefully we’ve had enough people begin to understand more clearly how difficult this is for the men and women who are making these repeated deployments.
HOST: Right. I know you know this first-hand because your own son is just back. He was deployed from service in May and is now back at Camp LeJeune. But the Defense chief also opposes it because he says we’re having enough difficulty as it is with the 15-month deployment and 12 months at home, making this work. Are we setting ourselves up for disaster if we don’t have enough troops in the war zone?
WEBB: We’re not setting ourselves up for failure. The question is, as Adm. Fallon said — he’s Gen. Petraeus’s operational commander — is not how many you have, it’s how you use them. Now I’ve been around the military all my life. It’s not just my service or my son’s service. I’ve talked to people who are in Iraq, who have been to Iraq, on a daily basis. This is something that can work. The administration can no longer be believed when it’s talking about policy in Iraq.
Five years ago, I wrote a piece for the Washington Post saying that if we went into Iraq, there would be no exit strategy because these people didn’t intend to leave. It’s taken them five years to admit that. They did last week, when they said we were going to be, in their view, in Iraq — just like we were in Korea — for the next 50 years.
HOST: But hold on. Is this amendment part of a larger strategy to bringing the troops home?
WEBB: Well, if the debate is going to go on like this, and if we now have an administration that is admitting it wants to be in Iraq for the next 50 years, we have to put a safety net under the way they’re using our people. And I think that’s an appropriate role of the Congress.
HOST: The President is threatening a veto. Will this be all for naught, even if you do get the 60 votes, senator?
WEBB: If I were the President of the United States, and I had an expression of the Congress that basically said you can’t keep people in Iraq longer than you’re allowing them to be at home, I’d think twice before I vetoed that.