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Legislative Division Update 12-14-2012

LEGION-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES

House, Senate VA Committees Announces Majority Membership for 113th Congress

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) held a brief business meeting Wednesday, December 12, 2012. The meeting was largely notable as it represented the first time Congressman Michael Michaud (ME) sat in his new position as Ranking Member of the committee. The previous Ranking Member, Congressman Bob Filner (CA) recently resigned his seat to assume his responsibilities as the newly elected Mayor of San Diego. Representative Jeff Miller (FL), chairman of the HVAC, announced the appointment of the fourteen Republican Members to the committee in the 113th Congress. [Members’ names in italic type are new to the committee.]

Republican Roster (alphabetical order):

Rep. Jeff Miller, FL (Chairman)

Rep. Mark Amodei, NV

Rep. Dan Benishek, MI

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, FL

Rep. Mike Coffman, CO

Rep. Paul Cook, CA

Rep. Jeff Denham, CA

Rep. Bill Flores, TX

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, KS

Rep. Doug Lamborn, CO

Rep. Phil Roe, TN

Rep. Jon Runyan, NJ

Rep. Jackie Walorski, IN

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, OH

Democrats will have a total of 11 appointments to the HVAC, which will be announced in the weeks to come.

On the same day, the Democratic Steering Committee approved committee assignments for Democratic senators in the 113th Congress. (Senator’s names in italic type are new members.)

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS – 113th

Bernard Sanders, VT – CHAIRMAN

Jay Rockefeller, WV

Patty Murray, WA

Sherrod Brown, OH

Jon Tester, MT

Mark Begich, AK

Richard Blumenthal, CT

Mazie Hirono, HI

House Members File Suit On Senate Filibuster Rule

A lawsuit regarding the Senate filibuster rule was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, December 10, by four House Democrats (and other plaintiffs). They filed against the Senate over the use of this parliamentary maneuver. The case is Common Cause et al. v. Joseph R. Biden Jr. et al., naming the vice president in his official capacity as the Senate president.

The court hearing focused on the question of whether the plaintiffs have the standing to bring their lawsuit. Lawyers for the Senate asked Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to dismiss the case. Representing the Senate, attorney Thomas E. Caballero said the Constitution explicitly allows each legislative chamber to set its own rules and that House members have no basis for the argument their votes are being diluted by the Senate’s use of the filibuster. Emmet J. Bondurant, attorney for the plaintiffs, acknowledged the Constitution allows the Senate to set its own rules but said the Senate is "totally wrong" in arguing that its authority to do so is absolute. He urged the court to review the merits of the lawsuit just as it would review the merits of a lawsuit against a congressional statute. Judge Sullivan directed the Senate’s lawyers to provide written briefings on additional legal questions by Thursday, December 13, and noted the lawsuit raises "complicated issues. A decision date for the ruling on the standing question was not provided.

The members — Representatives John Lewis (GA), Hank Johnson (GA), Michael H. Michaud (ME) (who will be the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member in the upcoming 113th Congress), and Keith Ellison (MN) — contend the 60-vote threshold required to invoke cloture and overcome Senate filibusters unconstitutionally infringes on the principle of majority rule because it allows a minority of senators to defeat bills that otherwise would pass on a simple majority vote. A specific claim mentioned by the plaintiffs was that during the 111th Congress House-passed legislation to amend immigration laws, known as the DREAM Act, failed to advance in the Senate due to the fact that the filibuster caused the defeat of the legislation because the bill fell five votes short of the 60 votes required for cloture. The plaintiffs also argue the filibuster regularly prevents the Senate from passing legislation that has the support of a majority of senators.

This suit comes at a time when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) is attempting to change the filibuster rules in the 113th Congress.

World War I Memorial Act on House Agenda

On Wednesday, December 12, the House was expected to pass H.R. 6364, the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act. One aspect of this bill which is different from previous versions is that the location for this new memorial will not be the already-existing DC World War I Memorial, as outlined in our resolution. DC congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton would not allow the DC WWI Memorial to be redesignated. Under the terms of H.R. 6364, the new memorial will be built on a half acre of land on the National Mall, east of the Vietnam War Memorial in an area known as Constitution Gardens. The Senate is expected to pass the measure sometime later in lame duck session.

Below is the text of The American Legions resolution on the World War I Memorial.

NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

OF

THE AMERICAN LEGION

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

OCTOBER 13-14, 2010

Resolution No. 15: Redesignate The Liberty Memorial In Kansas City, Missouri And The District Of Columbia WWI Memorial As National WWI Memorials

Origin: Internal Affairs Commission

Submitted by: Internal Affairs Commission

WHEREAS, This resolution combines Resolution No. 15 (Internal Affairs 2010 Spring Meetings) and Resolution Nos. 4 (District of Columbia); 154 (Maryland); and 238 (Missouri) from the 2010 National Convention; and

WHEREAS, The United States joined its European allies in 1917 to help defeat Germany and its allies in the first World War which, after cessation of hostilities, was referred to as the Great War or the War to End all Wars; and

WHEREAS, The United States mobilized over 4,700,000 Armed Forces personnel for that war and lost 116,516 killed in action or died from other causes as well as 204,002 wounded; and

WHEREAS, There is no National World War I Memorial which was ever authorized by Congressional action, although private citizens and other states raised funds for the design, construction and dedication of World War I memorials, stadiums and museums; and

WHEREAS, In 1919 the people of Kansas City, Missouri, expressed an outpouring of support and raised more than $2,000,000 in two weeks for a memorial to the service of Americans who served in World War I which was paralleled by any other city in the United States irrespective of population and reflected the passion of public opinion about World War I, which had so recently ended; and

WHEREAS, Following the drive, a national architectural competition was held by the American Institute of Architects for designs for a memorial to the service of Americans in World War I, and the competition yielded a design by Architect H. Van Buren Magonigle; and

WHEREAS, On November 1, 1921, more than 100,000 people witnessed the dedication of the site for the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri; and

WHEREAS, The dedication of the site on November 1, 1921 marked the only time in history that the five allied military leaders, Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Admiral Lord Earl Beatty of Great Britain, and General of the Armies John J. Pershing of the United States of America, were together at one place; and

WHEREAS, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, a native of Missouri and the Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, noted at the November 1, 1921 dedication that "the people of Kansas City, Missouri are deeply proud of the beautiful memorial, erected in tribute to the patriotism, the gallant achievements, and the heroic sacrifices of their sons and daughters who served in our country’s armed forces during the World War which symbolized their grateful appreciation of duty well done, and appreciation which I share, because I know so well how richly it is merited"; and

WHEREAS, During an Armistice Day ceremony in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge marked the beginning of a three year construction project for the Liberty Memorial by the laying of the cornerstone; and

WHEREAS, The 217 foot Liberty Memorial Tower has an inscription that reads", In honor of Those Who Served in the World War in Defense of Liberty and Our Country" as well as four stone

"Guardian Spirits" representing Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifices, which rise above the observation deck, making the Liberty Memorial a noble tribute to all who served in World War I; and

WHEREAS, During a rededication of the Liberty Memorial in 1961, World War I Veterans and former Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized the memorial as a constant reminder of the sacrifices during World War I and the progress that followed; and

WHEREAS, The 106th Congress recognized the Liberty Memorial as a national symbol of World War I; and

WHEREAS, The 108th Congress designated that the museum at the base of The Liberty Memorial as "American’s National World War I Museum"; and

WHEREAS, The American’s National World War I Museum is the only public museum in the United States specifically dedicated to the history of World War I; and

WHEREAS, The National World War I Museum is known throughout the world as a major center of World War I remembrance; and

WHEREAS, In the 1920s, The American Legion was advocating for a National Memorial in Washington, DC but the idea just died after the National Fine Arts Commission studied with no action taken; and

WHEREAS, Many states, counties, cities built elaborate WW I memorials, coliseums, stadiums, libraries, buildings and monuments because the mood of the country at the time was a small central government and the local communities would honor the veterans in addition the country was experiencing a large National war debt and then the depression and WW II were probably key reasons why a Federal Memorial on the Mall in DC never got off the ground; and

WHEREAS, The District of Columbia was authorized by a Joint Resolution of the 68th Congress on February 7, 1924, to construct, at no cost to the Government, a memorial on the National Mall to be dedicated "to those members of the Armed Forces of the United States from the District of Columbia who served in the Great Wars"; and

WHEREAS, The DC World War Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, and an annual observance has been held at the Memorial on the third Sunday of May by the District of Columbia World War Memorial and May Day Corporation since that date; and

WHEREAS, Over the years although it sits on the Mall, it fell into disrepair and it took The American Legion in 2006 going to Congress to get $7 million in authorized funds to refurbish the memorial and to this day only a $2.3 million improvement was started in July 2010 with stimulus funds; and

WHEREAS, The last living World War I veteran, Mr. Frank Buckles of West Virginia, aroused the interest of Congress to have a National World War Memorial on the Mall to honor all veterans of the Great Wars, not just DC soldiers killed in Europe; and

WHEREAS, The World War I Memorial Foundation was established in August 2006 as a private nonprofit organization to raise funds for the rededication and an additional enhancement of the World War I Memorial on the Mall as a National and District of Columbia World War I Memorial; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, By the National Executive Committee of The American Legion in regular meetings assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 13-14, 2010, That The American Legion support the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri as the National WWI Memorial and Museum and the District of Columbia World War I Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC as the District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial without financial obligation to The American Legion.

LEGISLATIVE DIVISION ACTIONS

Legion Staff Attend American Enterprise Institute Event

On Tuesday, December 11th, American Legion staff attended an event in which American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks was joined by Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) and Rep. Steve Scalise (LA), chairman and chairman-elect of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), respectively. The main theme of the event discussed the challenges and successes of the 112th Congress. Reps. Jordan and Scalise also looked ahead to the potential policy issues of 113th Congress, examining the role that the leading conservative caucus in the House of Representatives will play.

Rep. Jordan began by reflecting on the RSC’s engagement in the policy battles of the 112th Congress, particularly the supercommittee negotiations during the summer and fall of 2011. Rep. Scalise contended that the House must embrace a "visionary agenda" in the 113th Congress that prioritizes tax reform and curbs entitlement growth as a means of achieving a balanced budget. The representatives agreed that the greatest threat to future generations of Americans is government-led redistributive spending, which, according to Rep. Scalise, stifles individual opportunity.

Among the many other topics discussed by Reps. Jordan and Scalise were the fiscal cliff, sequestration, and immigration reform. Rep. Jordan concluded by emphasizing that the RSC must continue to advocate for the policy proposals that reflect the committee’s fundamental values, because "if we stick with our principles, we will arrive at the right policy".

Update on Flag Amendment Bills

Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (UT) office continues to solicit additional cosponsors for Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The cosponsor total for the Senate legislation stands at 37. To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion bill to the Senate measure – has accumulated 91 cosponsors, with the recent addition of Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO). (66, 97, 272)

Please contact your representative’s and senators’ offices, and ask them to become cosponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. If they are already cosponsors, be sure to thank them for their support.

 

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