July 30, 2008 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

GOP Fights for Military Voting

Sens. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), along with Reps. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are engaging in legislative combat for the rights of our military to vote in the 2008 election.

In 2000 military ballots were targeted for challenge in the famous Florida recount, and only 48% of the overseas members of the military who requested absentee ballots for the 2006 election had their ballots counted, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Conservatives believe that members of Congress should fight as hard for the right of our military to vote as our military has fought to allow Iraq to have a constitutional democracy.

Allard and his fellow lawmakers would provide for the expedited delivery of ballots to our troops in the field fighting the Global War on Terror and direct the Department of Defense to make sure that ballots are collected and counted. Allard is readying legislation this week to eliminate the notary requirement on voted ballots, and he would change the law to allow for the electronic submission of a federal postcard application for absentee ballot requests. Blunt has introduced a resolution demanding that the Department of Defense do a better job of enabling the military overseas to vote in the November elections. It is very difficult for a marine in Iraq or Afghanistan to fill out forms and mail them in on time to request an absentee ballot. Both these measures would make it easier for our troops to exercise their right to vote.

The Secret Chamber

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has run the Senate in a manner that secretly passes on billions in cost to the taxpayer and stifles debate. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report last week which shows that 94% of the bills in the Senate have passed in the past two years without a vote, debate or a single amendment. These bills passed in secret have cost you, the taxpayer, $9 billion. Conservatives want the Congress to go on record when it shakes down the taxpayers.

Reid also has used a procedure to block amendments to bills by using the parliamentary procedure of "filling the tree" on bills being considered before the Senate. This trick allows Reid to block any amendments from being offered to legislation, unless he approves of the amendment. Reid has packaged together billions of dollars in bills that Coburn has blocked and will bring them up as one package he has deemed the "Coburn Omnibus" for a vote, using the threat of "filling the tree" to block all controversial amendments. Conservatives want the Senate to operate with fair rules that allow conservatives to participate in the process.

More Oil, Not Mandates

Last week the Department of Interior announced that announced that oil shale located in America's West could contain 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil (other estimates put the number at as much as two trillion). To put that in perspective, Saudi Arabia has proven conventional oil reserves of 264 billion barrels. Why can't we access that massive reserve of oil? Because Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) is blocking it. Salazar inserted a provision into last year's appropriation bill that denied any funding for the final regulation to be published so we could produce this domestic oil and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

To make matters worse, Salazar joined Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) in introducing the Open Fuel Standard Act. The bill would mandate that 50% of all new automobiles be able to operate on gasoline, ethanol and methanol by 2012 and 80% by 2015. The government would once again be attempting to pick the fuel of the future and providing a disincentive for research and development on other technologies.

Oil obviously has both economic and geopolitical problems, but a mandate is not the way to change America's oil consumption. If methanol is as cheap, plentiful and commercially viable as these senators claim, a mandate of any kind is unnecessary. There still are technological and economic challenges to producing oil shale that need to be overcome. But the government shouldn't stand in the way of this progress, especially when the potential payoff is so big.

Conservatives should obstruct any mandates on oil production, even when cloaked in the robe of national security, because the consumer and taxpayer lose every time members of Congress legislate solutions to our oil consumption problems. Congress needs to remove obstructions to drilling and converting oil shale to gas.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First appeared in Human Events