Wednesday, February 28
On February 13 the Senate voted to condemn the president’s plan to escalate the war in Iraq and asked Bush to “obtain explicit approval from Congress if he wants to send more American troops to Iraq.”
Confused? Think Sacramento, not Washington: In an increasingly common practice, the Golden State decided to take foreign policy into its own hands instead of simply watching the U.S. Congress debate about how to debate. The California State Senate, lead by Senator Carole Midgen (D-San Francisco), rebuked the president’s Iraq policy with a non-binding resolution the likes of which Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) can only dream about.
California joined Vermont and Iowa in passing resolutions voicing disapproval of Bush’s troop surge, while Maryland, Maine, Connecticut, and Minnesota have all drafted official letters to the president for the same purpose. And more legislatures are poised to express their disapproval, with resolutions or letters pending in another 21 states, ranging from Massachusetts to Montana.
But as The Los Angeles Times points out, even if a more prominent resolution passed in Congress, it “would have no more force of law than the one approved [earlier this month] commending the Miss America Organization for its commitment to ‘the character of women in the United States.'” What hope, then, can state governments have in their ability to effect U.S. foreign policy?
The Progressive States Network, which is leading the charge to pass anti-surge resolutions at the state level, argues that states do have a considerable voice in the foreign policy process. “Historically, there have been a number of precedents for states taking stances on foreign policy issues that affect them; you can go back to Vietnam, to Apartheid, to free trade agreements.” Joel Barkin, Executive Director of the Progressive States Network told Campus Progress. “Can state legislatures have a binding affect on foreign policy? No. But they can send a clear message and put political pressure on those who represent them in Congress.”
Indeed, political pressure from states has often been essential to forcing politicians in Washington to listen to their constituents back home. “When seven states passed an increase in the minimum wage, we got 380 votes to increase it [in the House] with 80 Republicans supporting it as well,” said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Ma.), a supporter of Progressive States Network’s efforts in a teleconference with resolution supporters. “They did it because they knew what was happening at the state level.”