CoRev on a Pocket Veto, Cactus on a Pocket Veto

This one is by CoRev.

In a surprise move late this week President Bush vetoed the Defense authorizations bill. First a little civics lesson. The way funding is performed in today’s federal government it takes two bills. First is an authorization to spend which usually sets goals and limits on an agency’s spending (i.e. raises for employees, amounts for construction, research, operations, etc.) and some instructions on priorities how that authorization is to be spent. Second, a bill is passed, the budget, which funds those authorizations. Essentially congress has two swipes at effecting how and how much money is spent.

The current authorizations bill included a poison pill effecting and even eliminating some spending BY THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT. Huh, you might say? US authorizations stop Iraqi from spending? What was included was a hidden little set of clauses authorizing plaintiff’s trial lawyers to impound Iraqi bank accounts.

File a law suit against the Iraqi government or official and the first motion could be to impound ALL/ANY bank accounts. Thusly, all Iraqi accounts could be locked up tight by a US Court just by request of a plaintiff’s lawyer(s).

Here’s just one potential impact.

By the way, the real question is what account is those billions of Iraqi dollars in? That provision would terminate the arms purchases thru FMS with the
first lawsuit. That would stop further arming of the ISF with Iraqi money. The end of the Iraqi military surge.

And this comment explains some of the motivation.

Theres (sic) a lot more sneaky stuff here than meets the eye. What this little jem (sic) did was to allow Iraqi assets to be frozen by trial lawyers sueing (sic) Iraq for the actions of Saddam Hussein. The back door effect would be that Iraq
would be strapped for cash, pull all of their money out of American banks, and it would probably put a financial stop to the rebuilding progress, in effect taking money away from the war effort. This is in effect, a back door effort to cut off funds for the war because if you take away all of Iraqs (sic) money, there would be no money available for our forces rebuilding that country. The dhims knew exactly what they were doing here and this amendment was never made know to anyone befor (sic) the bill was submitted.

By the way, this bill was submitted late on a friday (sic)night and voted for on saturday (sic) afternoon. I seriously doubt anybody really knows everything in it.

More information is available at Captain’s Quarters. Read the comments for a lively discussion countering the good Captains opinion.

This one was by CoRev.

Cactus here. A few comments – based mostly out of ignorance:

1. I figured foreign countries are generally exempt from lawsuits in US courts… except when by some action they are not. An example would be how Libya was slapped with a huge judgment in a US court over the plane that went down in Lockerbie, for example. And Steve Benen links to an AP report:

Sovereign nations normally are immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts. An exception is made for state sponsors of terrorism, and Iraq was designated such a nation in 1990. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, however, Congress passed a law and Bush issued a decree stating that Iraq was exempt from such lawsuits.

The subject of intent that often comes up in situations like this… If the Republican Congress and the Republican President had intended for a post-Saddam Iraq not to be liable for such suits, they either would have written that into the law in the first place, or they would have changed the law in the years following his fall before the Dems took over.

Update… On a re-reading of this point, it is clear I misunderstood the quote I provided. My bad. My point number 1 is moot.

2. The AP also reports:

Bush’s decision to use a pocket veto, announced while vacationing at his Texas ranch, means the legislation will die at midnight Dec. 31. This tactic for killing a bill can be used only when Congress is not in session.

The House last week adjourned until Jan. 15; the Senate returns a week later but has been holding brief, often seconds-long pro forma sessions every two or three days to prevent Bush from making appointments that otherwise would need Senate approval.

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “The House rejects any assertion that the White House has the authority to do a pocket veto.”

Put another way… if you can only use a pocket veto when Congress is not in session, and Congress has remained in session, the pocket veto does not apply. GW was very good about sticking to the letter, if not the intent of the law, when it came to recess appointments. Dems began to play the same game. And now GW wants to play the intent rather than the letter of the law?

3. Leaving aside any issues of illegality or whatnot – this is an administration that cared so little about US taxpayer money that it lost track of billions of dollars of reconstruction money in Iraq. It cared so little about US lives that it lost track of tons of explosives and who knows how many weapons that could be used against US troops. But it seems plenty concerned about money being made available for the members of the Iraqi government (those paragons of honesty and virtue) to loot.