Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will consider a resolution commemorating September 11 as a day of remembrance and national tragedy. Solemn language uniting every member of Congress around a shared sense of purpose and mourning would seem appropriate for the occasion. But just as President Bush and Congressional Republicans exploited 9/11 in the run-up to the 2002 elections, GOP leaders are once again inserting divisive and misleading partisan language into what should be an apolitical moment enshrining courage and loss.
A draft text of the resolution, supported by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, reads in part:
Whereas Congress passed, and the President signed, numerous laws to assist victims, combat the forces of terrorism, protect the Homeland and support the members of the Armed Forces who defend American interests at home and abroad: including, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and its 2006 reauthorization; the Homeland Security Act of 2002; the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002; the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002; the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004; the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005; the SAFE Port Act of 2006; and the 21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006.
The validity, constitutionality and effectiveness of some of the above pieces of legislation have been questioned by legal and intelligence experts, prominent Democrats and even a number of Republicans. The Patriot Act immediately jumps out. But so do others. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which reorganized American intelligence as recommended by the 9/11 commission, was initially opposed by Bush. The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, otherwise known as the “Sensenbrenner Bill,” severely restricts immigration rights and has been a source of controversy for months. The SAFE Port Act of 2006 passed only after House Republicans repeatedly blocked more money for port security and the Dubai ports deal died.
Such deceptive tactics have been utilized by the GOP before when it comes to national security. After Rep. John Murtha issued his redeployment plan in December 2005, Republicans passed a resolution “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.” Murtha’s plan called for no such thing. And when the House debated the war in Iraq back in June, the GOP made sure the resolution repeatedly linked Iraq to a broader war on terror and circulated concurrent talking points labeling Democrats as “weak,” “dangerous” and ready to “concede defeat.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Hastert to model this year’s 9/11 resolution after an apolitical version that passed overwhelmingly last year. Thus far, he hasn’t budged. There’s an election coming up. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans will do whatever it takes, including rewriting the history of 9/11, to try and avoid defeat.