Congress needs to hear from you now.
Today, the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has 10,000—yes,10,000—supporters on Capitol Hill pushing a hawkish, misinformed position on Iran diplomacy.
Don’t let this be a one-sided debate. Tell Congress not to undermine talks with Iran.
AIPAC has been the main proponent of the dangerous Senate sanctions bill that President Obama threatened to veto because it could jeopardize talks with Iran. If talks fail, we could be headed down a path to war with Iran.
You and thousands of people around the country heard the warning call and bombarded Congress with messages opposing this bill. The outpouring was remarkable, and we put AIPAC back on its heels. They backed off and said they didn’t support a vote on the bill at this time. But they’re not giving up. They’re still pressuring senators to cosponsor the bill, and to sign a similar letter that tries to micromanage the diplomatic process.
Show Congress the political stakes of jeopardizing this opportunity for peace. Take action now.
We have allies in Congress who are standing up for diplomacy. But they can’t withstand intense pressure from AIPAC and groups like them if we meet their aggressiveness with silence. Pro-peace groups around the country are mobilizing today, and we need your voice. Take action.
Next week, the president will present his 2015 budget to Congress (about a month later than usual). With elections coming up, there will be a brief window of time for Congress to weigh in.
While we don’t have all the details yet, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed the budget on Monday. The major thing it revealed was something you probably could have guessed anyway: it’s too big.
The Pentagon finally reconciles with the reality of congressional spending caps, but only for one year. Even then, it throws in a wish list to give Congress ideas about upping the Pentagon budget this year:
The US Defense Department on March 4 will propose a five-year plan that boosts Pentagon spending by a total of $115 billion over sequestration spending caps, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the plan.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday will preview the plan, along with other key items included in DoD’s $496 billion 2015 budget proposal. The budget proposal ignores federally mandated spending caps between 2016 and 2019. Defense News has reported that the fiscal 2016 budget projection would be $36 billion over the sequester cap.
While DoD’s fiscal 2015 budget falls in line with defense spending caps for that year, the budget will include a separate $26 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.” The additional $26 billion would go toward readiness, the sources said.
Sara Sorcher at National Journal offers 5 things to know about next year’s Pentagon budget. They’re all useful to look at, but one in particular is a major issue that Peace Action West will be keeping an eye on and reaching out to you to take action on:
4. The wartime budget may turn into a slush fund.
The Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations account, which has been tacked onto the budget for years to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, could serve as a budget gimmick.
It’s supposed to be emergency war spending. But the OCO—which is not subject to the budget caps—may encompass other priorities that should, theoretically, be in the Pentagon’s base budget.
This happened in fiscal 2014, when the cost per troop in Afghanistan skyrocketed to over $2 million from a remarkably stable $1.3 million in previous years, according to Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The Pentagon apparently added at least $20 billion—and Congress another $10 billion—to the fiscal 2014OCO account, for things not directly related to war, like depot maintenance for major weapons systems, and pay and benefits for service members not necessarily contingent on deployments.
The fiscal 2014 war funding request was $79 billion, for some 38,000 troops in Afghanistan. “If we see the troop level drop to about 10,000 in 2015, we should see a significant reduction in the budget—by almost a quarter,” Harrison said. If the cost per deployed troop is higher—even as the size of the U.S. force is lower, and the scope of military operations smaller—that’s a “good indicator we’re adding costs in there that don’t belong there.”
Thousands of you contacted your representative urging him or her to sign a letter expressing support for diplomacy with Iran and opposing counterproductive legislation that could jeopardize talks and make war more likely.
The letter came out today with a whopping 104 signatures. This sends another strong message after the Menendez/Kirk sanctions bill stalled out in the Senate, and will help blunt the momentum of any new bad legislation. Thank you for taking action!
See if your representative signed in the list below:
Dear Mr. President,
As Members of Congress—and as Americans—we are united in our unequivocal commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would threaten the security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly Israel.
The ongoing implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the “P5+1” nations last November increases the possibility of a comprehensive and verifiable international agreement. We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation. At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.
We remain wary of the Iranian regime. But we believe that robust diplomacy remains our best possible strategic option, and we commend you and your designees for the developments in Geneva. Should negotiations fail or falter, nothing precludes a change in strategy. But we must not imperil the possibility of a diplomatic success before we even have a chance to pursue it.
3 Bishop, Sanford
7 Butterfield, GK
13 Clarke, Yvette
23 Davis, Danny
29 Duncan Jr (R)
36 Fudge, Marcia
40 Hanna (R)
44 Johnson, EB
45 Johnson, Hank
46 Jones, Walter (R)
49 Kelly, Robin
53 Lee, Barbara
59 Massie (R)
64 McNerney, Jerry
66 Miller, George
68 Moran, Jim
69 Negrete McLeod
79 Price, David
85 Ryan, Tim
88 Scott, Bobby
93 Thompson, Bennie
94 Thompson, Mike
98 Van Hollen
It’s time for Congress to choose sides.
We’re at a crossroads, and the decisions our government makes could have costs in dollars and even lives. We’ve blocked a bad bill for now that politicians and pundits thought was a sure thing. But with talks for a permanent deal with Iran starting up this month, our opponents are going to regroup and come back to the fight. We need to take it up a notch.
The administration, the intelligence community, and countless experts have told Congress that sanctions and other legislation that tries to micromanage the diplomatic process could cause the talks to fall apart. But some members of Congress can’t resist the temptation to rattle sabers at Iran.
When you take action in the Talks or War campaign, your representative will receive a reply card to return to you with a clear answer: I support letting diplomacy work, or I’m accepting the risk of leading us to war by supporting unhelpful legislation. In addition to the thousands of emails Congress gets, we have organizers on the ground collecting handwritten postcards to mail in with reply cards. Congress will not be able to ignore the choice they face of leading us to war or throwing their support behind diplomacy.
For years, members of Congress have tried to claim they support diplomacy while doing things that undermine it. With the Talks or War campaign, we’re letting them know that they can’t pretend to be unaware of the risk they’re taking in making war more likely. Your message lets them know that we will hold them accountable for the choices they make. Take action now.
In our dozens of lobby meetings this year, we’ve seen that members of Congress are sensitive to responsibility for getting us into another devastating war after the Iraq debacle. We’re driving that message home so they’ll think very carefully about any action they take on Iran.
Thank you for putting the pressure on.
The momentum is on our side.
The Senate sanctions bill that Iran hawks sold as an inevitable victory is stopped in its tracks. President Obama used his high-profile State of the Union speech to mount a strong case for diplomacy and renew his threat to veto counterproductive sanctions.
It’s great that we can stop a bad bill. But now it’stime to go on offense. Tell your representative to sign the Give Diplomacy a Chance letter.
Thanks to you, and supporters of other progressive organizations around the country, we have generated thousands of letters and phone calls to Congress supporting the diplomacy with Iran. I’ve heard in Senate meetings over and over that they are hearing far more from constituents who support diplomacy.
Now Iran hawks are looking at the House and trying to learn the lessons from this losing battle. A group of representatives are circulating a letter that states opposition to any new sanctions while talks are ongoing. Sending a strong, proactive signal now can blunt the impact of any new bad legislation. Tell your representative to sign the letter now.
It’s one thing for members of Congress to stay off a bad bill. It’s more of a risk for them to stick their necks out on a tough issue like Iran. We think your representative could be convinced to sign, if you raise your voice and show public support. Take action now.
I’m starting to think some senators are crazy enough to want a war with Iran.
How else do you explain the 59 senators who are cosponsoring a bill that could be so damaging to negotiations that President Obama has already threatened to veto it?
The misleadingly titled Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act is a grab bag of horrible ideas slammed by experts on Iran. More unnecessary sanctions, at the worst possible time, would be bad enough. But the bill also puts forward unrealistic demands for Iran’s nuclear program and states that the US would support an Israeli attack. As of now, 43 Republicans and 16 Democrats have put their names on this horrendous bill.
We’re on Capitol Hill right now urging senators to oppose this bill. Give us the power to hold them accountable by sending a message to your senators now.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, leader of the Iranian negotiating team, made it clear how damaging these efforts are: “Some people are wedded to the idea that pressure will produce results.They are wrong. Pressure has produced 18,000 centrifuges in Iran. So if they want to continue that road — it is open to them, but it doesn’t produce any results.” It’s outrageous that these senators are willing to jeopardize a chance for a peaceful resolution and put us on a path toward war.
With the Senate coming back to work this week, hawkish groups are bombarding them with pressure to support this bill. Tell your senators not to be responsible for another disastrous war. Take action.
A group of military veterans in the state of Washington sent a letter today to their congressional delegation urging them to work to cut wasteful Pentagon spending and preserve government funding that actually helps service members and veterans. In a press release about the letter, Dan Gilman, President of the Greater Seattle Chapter of Veterans for Peace, said:
“We want to make clear that billions of dollars in wasteful Pentagon spending isn’t helping veterans and service members any more than it’s helping the American public. We would all be better served by a budget that ensures us access to healthcare, education and employment. Wasting money on weapons we don’t need isn’t keeping Americans safe, and it’s hurting people who have sacrificed for this country.”
The letter reads:
Dear Washington Congressional Delegation,
We are writing to urge you to work for a budget that provides the services that veterans and service members need while reducing wasteful Pentagon spending.
We join others in the military and veteran community working to adjust to a new reality as more than a decade of war begins to wind down. The Pentagon must do the same and create a budget that reflects our true security needs. The budget reductions required by sequestration are a 31% reduction from peak war spending levels, a smaller reduction than drawdowns after the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars.
While some veterans’ benefits are protected from sequester cuts, many veterans and military families in Washington and around the country are impacted by deep cuts in domestic spending. Cutting funding for education, unemployment benefits, job search assistance, and services for domestic violence victims makes it difficult for veterans and their families to build fulfilling, secure lives.
Pentagon spending, not including war costs, has increased 35% in the last decade, while domestic discretionary spending has increased only 12%. Experts from across the political spectrum have identified hundreds of billions of dollars of responsible reductions, including eliminating waste and fraud; improving efficiency; and discontinuing or reducing unnecessary weapons systems.
As you finish work on the 2014 budget and move on to next year’s budget work, we encourage you to promote smart, strategic decisions to reach the levels required by the sequester rather than making arbitrary, across the board cuts. We encourage you to pressure the Pentagon to plan for lower spending levels and make the hard decisions required by the reality of our new budget environment. We oppose any deal that lets the Pentagon off the hook while continuing to slash funding for domestic programs.
As former president and five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.” We look forward to hearing about your work on a budget that keeps Americans safe, takes care of veterans and active duty service members, and provides the quality of life at home that we all deserve.
You can see the letter with the list of signers and their service history here.