House 'Sovereignty Caucus' Aimed at Koh

Stopping the President’s controversial appointment of Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department is the first major mission of a newly-formed caucus of House Members devoted to issues of American sovereignty.

“[Koh] believes in trans-national organization having sway over U.S. domestic policy,” said Rep.  Scott Garrett (R.-N.J.), one of three co-founders of the House Sovereignty Caucus, “and that’s unacceptable.”

Garrett and co-founders and Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn (Col) and Thad McCotter (Mich.) spoke to me about their new caucus and its causes — not only stopping the Koh (pronounced “Coe”) nomination but also a possible U.S. move to join the International Criminal Court and President Obama’s recent call on Congress to appropriate $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund over the next decade.

All of these are the kinds of issues that motivated the three lawmakers to form the House Sovereignty Caucus, which is dedicated to fighting any legislation (or any appointee) that would seek to weaken U.S. sovereignty.  Although outside groups had suggested the idea of such a caucus to House Members who care about these ideas, it took the three conservative Republicans — Garrett, Lamborn, and McCotter — to make it happen.  Within two weeks of its birth, the Sovereignty Caucus had signed up 25 House Members and circulated a letter opposing the nomination of former Yale Law School Dean Koh.

Much of Koh’s writings support the idea that regulations of the United Nations and other international organizations should trump U.S. law.  In an address at Fordham University Law School entitled “A World Drowning in Guns” (April 2, 2002), Koh called for a UN-governed regime to force the U.S. to submit information about American companies small arms production.”  The nominee to the State Department believes that the UN should be granted the power “to standardize national laws and procedures with member states of regional organizations.”

“And the nomination of Mr. Koh appears to be the beginning of a very troubling pattern,” Lamborn told me, citing Justice Department nominees Dawn Johnsen ( assistant attorney general for legal counsel) and David Ogden (deputy attorney general) as cases of high-level Obama appointees who have histories of praising international law over U.S.-made law.

Given this “troubling pattern,” Michigan’s McCotter warned, “are we too far out of line to be concerned that this kind of ideology will be shared by the next Supreme Court nominee?”

Another major concern of the Sovereignty Caucus is that the Obama Administration will take a 180-degree turn from that of the Bush Administration and call for U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court (ICC).  All of the lawmakers vowed a fight if and when the current Administration decides to ask the Senate to ratify American participation in and acceptance of the legitimacy of the ICC, which, they warned, could open the way to ICC indictments of former U.S. officials charged with alleged torture of detainees in the war  on terror.  

The ICC, unlike US courts, is not bound by US law or our constitution.  Because our courts are, they are accountable under our law and bound as part of the democratic process.  The ICC is not required to protect constitutional rights and — boiled down to its most basic level – is a political court that renders political judgments.  To subject any Americans to its jurisdiction would be a major surrender of our sovereignty.

One issue that the Sovereignty Caucus has already drawn the line in the sand over with the White House is Obama’s recent letter to Congress calling for appropriation of $100 billion in additional funds to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the next ten years.  The figure would be part of the $1.1 trillion pledged to the IMF by the G-20 nations at their summit last month.

Speaking of the anticipated influx of new money as well as the new relaxed rules with which his groups can now make loans to needy nations, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strasse-Kahn told reporters recently: “We’re really in new times.  I like this.”

The Sovereignty Caucus does not.  McGarrett dismissed Obama’s call for greater IMF funding as “beyond the pale — the wrong time to take on additional debt for us.”  McCotter went on to say it was “ridiculous in these times for the U.S. taxpayers to help out a global Tammany Hall.”  

The three House Members readily conceded that, while they could indeed make an impact on funding of international organizations because of the “power of the purse” the House has, the most they could do with nominees such as Koh (whom the Senate confirms) is to bring attention to them.  But through press conferences, the “special orders” portion of the House, radio-TV talk shows, and other public forums, that is precisely what the House Sovereignty Caucus will do.  In the process, its founders intend to fully underscore what they consider to be a noble cause. 


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