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Paul Ryan and House Use NDAA to Hijack the President’s Response to ISIL

Speaker Paul Ryan’s Press Office released a statement yesterday regarding his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Most discussion until now has focused on closing Gitmo and transferring detainees from that place.

What Ryan and his cronies are focusing on now, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, is the group that has taken credit for those attacks, the Islamic State. Ryan & Co. brazenly advertise their attempt to hijack the executive branch to force the president’s hand on dealing with the Islamic State:

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) signed the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356), a bipartisan national defense bill that requires President Obama to put forward a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS. Speaker Ryan was joined by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and other members of the committee. Upon signing the bill, Speaker Ryan delivered the following remarks.

Watch the signing ceremony with Ryan’s remarks below:

Tune in to watch my first bill signing. NDAA gives our military the tools to succeed and requires President Obama to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS.

Posted by Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

“Well first off, I’d like to commend Chairman Mac Thornberry and our House conferees for a fantastic job well done on putting together a fantastic bill that gives us the kind of military we need for the 21st century. This bill is the kind of legislation that gives our armed forces the tools they need to be agile, to be effective, to be ready.

“I would point out there are two things in the bill that are very important. Number one—this bill requires that the president come up with a plan to actually defeat ISIS. Number two—this bill says that the president cannot send Guantanamo Bay detainees to America.

“The last point I would make is that the world is a very dangerous place. We’ve just seen recent evidence of that. And that is why we need a 21st century military that is capable of providing the kind of American leadership that is needed in the world. And with this bill, we are stepping up to the plate and doing just that.”

What is ironic is that it was exactly the failure of the NDAA to modernize America’s military that was given by President Obama as one of his reasons to veto the bill in October.

Inserted into the NDAA is the following section calling for action against the Islamic State:


(a) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of the Congress that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses an acute threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Iraqi Sunni communities, and Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities, and to the security and stability of the Middle East and beyond the region; defeating ISIL is critical to maintaining a unified Iraq in which all faiths, sects, and ethnicities are afforded equal protection and full integration into the Government and society of Iraq; and the United States should, in coordination with coalition partners, provide, in an expeditious and responsive manner and without undue delay, the military and other security forces of or associated with the Government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces and other local security forces, with a national security mission, with defense articles, defense services, and related training to more effectively partner with the United States and other international coalition members to defeat ISIL.

This is ridiculous. We all understand the Republican narrative is that President Obama isn’t doing anything, that his strategy to defeat ISIL is a mess, because this is the narrative that the base wants to hear, and it is the narrative that gives them the best chance to win elections, regardless of the actual facts.

So here, once again, we have our legislators – legislators who refuse to do their jobs by dealing with actual problems faced by actual Americans – legislating that President Obama do something about a problem he is already doing something about. And not only that, make it a grand gesture, perhaps meant to be a response to the president’s veto ceremony of the NDAA in October.

Are we supposed to swoon over our Republican do-nothings? Obama certainly isn’t, his response at the G-20 Summit being a sober-minded embrace of pragmatism:

“We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through. What I do not do is take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough or make me look tough.”

In other words, this is the exact opposite of what Republicans in the House attempted yesterday.

Who do they think has been governing this country in their absence? It clearly hasn’t been the United States House of Representatives. Yet the House goes on in the above fashion ad nauseam, for example requiring that,

Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State shall jointly submit to the appropriate congressional committees an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Iraq is increasing political inclusiveness, addressing the grievances of ethnic and sectarian minorities, and enhancing minority integration in the political and military structures in Iraq.

Sheesh. These guys aren’t this interested in the political inclusiveness and ethnic integration of the U.S. Armed Forces! And this brief example is only scratching the surface. They even helpfully delineate for the president what they mean by “violent extremist organization” as:

VIOLENT EXTREMIST ORGANIZATION.—The term ”violent extremist organization” means an organization that

(i) is a foreign terrorist organization designated by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189) or is associated with a foreign terrorist organization;


(ii) is known to be under the command and control of, or is associated with, 9 the Government of Iran.

(Never mind that there are already legal criteria under Section 219 of the INA as amended, or that Iran has been designated by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984. You can see the State Department list here)

As Sarah Jones wrote here yesterday, “it’s time to move on to explaining to Speaker Paul Ryan that he doesn’t need to demand that President Obama get a strategy on ISIL because President Obama already has one, and everyone who can read knows about it because it’s not even secret.”

Speaker Boehner is gone, but under Speaker Ryan the stupid lives on with solutions to problems that don’t exist and solutions to problems that are already being dealt with, while the problems they are supposed to be addressing go on being ignored. This is Republican government in action.

From Republicans we need governance, not public scenes of gratuitous self-gratification like yesterday’s unsuitable for a PG-13 rating.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen's Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.

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