Anointing himself with a mandate from the midterm elections that delivered Democrats their majority on Capitol Hill, Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wis.) received outpourings of support from anti-war protestors at a media-event hearing yesterday pointed at ending authorization for funding of future deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq.
Yesterday, Feingold held a hearing on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the place of Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), that was organized to explore how Congress could terminate war activities.
Feingold said in his opening statement, “It is often said in this era of ubiquitous public opinion polls that the only poll that really matters is the one held on Election Day. On November 7, 2006 we had such a poll and all across the country, the American people expressed their opinion on the war in Iraq in the most significant and meaningful way possible — they voted. And with those votes, they sent a clear message that they disagree with this war and they want our involvement to stop.”
He said President Bush had taken the United States to war on a “fraudulent basis” and that non-binding resolutions would not “fix the mess.” To resolve this, Feingold will introduce legislation today that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq, six months after enactment.
“It will not hurt the troops in any way,” Feingold argued. “They will continue receiving their equipment, training and salaries. It will simply prevent the President from continuing to deploy them to Iraq.”
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) was loudly interrupted by an anti-war protester during his opening statement by a woman who appeared to be in her early forties and was sitting with members of the protest group Code Pink.
“It seems to me to me that those who oppose the war have two options,” he said. “They can either try to de-fund our troops or they can add to the overall debate by publicly expressing their views.”
“We all saw the news of the public demonstrations as well as the vandalism taking place here in Washington this last weekend,” Hatch said. “But in addition to sending a message to the general public and specific political constituencies we must also consider the message we are sending to our troops.”
The woman stopped Hatch by standing and yelling, “My son is a U.S. Marine! He has done two tours in Iraq! He is now being recalled for a third tour!”
Feingold hit is gavel three times and said calmly, “I understand. I strongly support your first amendment right to free speech.”
“The committee will stand in recess until the police come,” he said. But, the hearing never stopped and police were already standing by. The woman remained and was never removed from the hearing.
“Stop the surge! Bring the troops home!” she continued to shout.
Hatch spoke directly to the woman about family members he had lost in war, including his brother, but the woman continued to interject.
“There are some who say they support our troops but turn around and talk about the funding…others talk about splitting appropriations hairs and funding certain groups but not others,” Hatch said.
“If they are home they won’t need the funds!” she yelled. Feingold made no motion to quiet her. Police did not approach her.
Throughout the hearing the protesters, mostly elderly women, gave Feingold intermitted applause causing him at one point to tell them, “This is not a public speech! It is merely a hearing!”
During his closing remarks Feingold again reiterated the point that President Bush had “fraudulently” brought the United States to war with Iraq.
“He [Bush] insisted we had no other option but to pre-emptively attack Iraq…as long as this President goes unchecked by Congress our troops will remain needlessly at risk and our national security will be compromised….Congress has the power to stop a war.” The protesters applauded loudly and many gave him a standing ovation.
When the hearing formally ended several women yelled, “Thank you! Thank you, Sen. Feingold!” as staffers and press filed out.
Later that day six anti-war protesters were arrested outside Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D.-N.Y.) Capitol Hill office.
Over the weekend, self-described “anarchist” protesters that had assembled on Capitol Hill to demonstrate against the war were permitted to spray paint the front steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.
They painted phrases such as “Our capitol building” and “you can’t stop us” on federal grounds, according to reports.
Republican Sen. Wayne Allard (Colo.) the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s legislative branch subcommittee, which oversees the U.S. Capitol Police, wrote a letter to USCP Chief Phillip Morse that said he was “disgusted” protesters were allowed to vandalize federal property.
“I am disgusted by these actions, and the lack of efforts to protect public integrity,” Allard wrote. “I am absolutely dismayed by the vandalism and the blatant disregard for respect of property that occurred at our Nation’s Capitol this weekend.”