House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Ed Royce (R-CA)
President Obama made good today on his promise to sign the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which had passed Congress last week. Dubbed by former Rep. Dennis Kucinich the bill that "reignited the Cold War while no one was looking," the Act imposes new sanctions on the Russian defense and energy industries, authorizes $350 million in lethal military assistance to the US-backed government in Kiev, urges that government to resume its deadly military operations against the Russian-speaking areas of east Ukraine seeking to break away from Kiev's rule, and authorizes millions of dollars to fund increased US government propaganda broadcasts to the countries of the former Soviet Union. Just days before Christmas, this bill is a massive gift to the US defense industry from which Ukraine will be required to purchase its lethal wish list.
Perhaps as disturbing as the bill itself is the shocking process by which it passed the US House of Representatives. Three Members of the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), planned to be on the House Floor after the business of the day (passage of the massive omnibus spending bill) was completed and Members had left the Floor.
Under a parliamentary move called "unanimous consent" the normal rules of the House can be suspended provided not a single other Member objects. The solution for these three Members was to ensure that no other Members were present. It would have been difficult for other Members to object anyway, as no one else in the House had even seen the bill! It had only just been introduced and the text was not available. The Congressional Record of the day tells the full story of this sneak attack.
Committee Chairman Royce brought up the bill by unanimous consent and the other two Members spoke briefly on the bill through another parliamentary trick where a Member reserves the right to object but does not object. During this brief comment period, Rep. Kaptur, a co-Chair of the House Ukraine Caucus, did her best impression of Kiev's "Baghdad Bob," once again making the assertion that Russia had invaded Ukraine. She took it even further, however, and actually blamed Russia for the deaths in eastern Ukraine that were caused by the military assault launched by the US-backed government in Kiev. Said Kaptur on the House Floor: "Six months ago, when Russia invaded Ukraine, 4,000 more Ukrainian lives were existing and have been taken." The idea that Russia would invade Ukraine to kill 4,000 pro-Russians in the east is absurd on its face, but logic seems to have been lost on Rep. Kaptur.
Once the faux objections were dispensed with and consideration of the bill was accepted, passage of the potentially historically significant Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 took one second. One second on the House Floor once these three Members had hatched their plan, and the US lurched forward toward direct confrontation with Russia.
There should be little doubt that the legislation was drafted for the Committee by special interests affiliated with the House Ukraine Caucus. That is simply how things work on the Hill. Members themselves are among the worst-informed in the United States and the gaps are "helpfully" filled by special interests like the Ukraine lobby.
Ironically, Rep. Marcy Kaptur occupies the Congressional seat long held by the consistently antiwar Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich lost his seat after his old district was re-drawn -- a move often used by political parties to eliminate "disloyal" Members.
President Obama claims that he will not immediately impose the sanctions that the bill authorizes, but passage of the bill provides him a standing authorization to escalate against Russia whenever he sees fit. In this, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act is not unlike the Congressional authorization for war on Iraq in 2002, which essentially told President Bush, "it's OK with us if you start a war with Iraq at any time of your own choosing." At least as important, the president will also have on his table an authorization for the expenditure of massive sums of money to destabilize Russia with US propaganda and to fund a US proxy war against Russia in eastern Ukraine.
This is how the business of the United States Congress is conducted. Dead of night. Sneak attack. Yet they have the audacity to lecture the rest of the world about how democracy is supposed to function. Ed Royce, Eliot Engel, Marcy Kaptur should be considered infamous for such an act, but there is little guarantee that had other Members present they would have actually objected. The US government seems intent on swaggering into a war with Russia by hook or by crook.
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