This is a wake-up call to the White House.
In an election-year repudiation of President Bush, a House panel dominated by Republicans voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to block a Dubai-owned firm from taking control of some U.S port operations.
By 62-2, the Appropriations Committee voted to bar DP World, run by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, from holding leases or contracts at U.S. ports.
Bush has promised to veto any such measure passed by Congress, but there is widespread public opposition to the deal and the GOP fears losing its advantage on the issue of national security in this fall’s elections…
…By its vote, the House committee attached the ports language to a must-pass $91 billion measure financing hurricane recovery and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The full House could consider that measure as early as next week.
While GOP Senate leaders hope to delay a quick showdown with Bush on the issue, the House panel, including members of Bush’s own party, showed a willingness to defy him.
On PBS this evening, GOP Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said there are enough votes in the House to override a presidential veto:
I think that the House would override a veto, and I think the President will see those numbers. You know, there is still some wiggle room. If the administration, on a very quick basis, can make the case for this, then I think we can amend that amendment within the committee process, perhaps even on the Senate floor. But I don’t think that’s likely. I think right now, we’re in a situation where an overwhelming majority would vote to override a veto. And I don’t think the President would want to take on that battle.
Already, the House Republicans are being dismissed as hysterical political opportunists. There will be a new round of race-card playing and accusations of Islamophobia against them. They will be lambasted for betraying Preisdent Bush.
But if they are guilty of anything, the House Republicans who are revolting on this issue are guilty of doing something the incompetent staffers at the White House can’t seem to do very well these days: listen and respond effectively to their constituents. When all is said and done, security-minded Americans would rather not see management of terminals at our U.S. ports in the hands of an Arab state-owned company whose government officials not only provided cover to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and created a ripe environment that facilitiated al Qaeda financing and remained a logistical hub after 9/11, but who also still maintain a catch-and-release policy toward terror suspects, deny the existence of our established ally, Israel, and may be providing material support for terrorism even as they welcome U.S. military forces to their shores.
Moreover, as the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney noted in House testimony last week:
– “The Coast Guard has acknowledged that DP World will be responsible for vetting the people assigned to its U.S. and other operations.”
– “Huge quantities of cargo move through our ports every day, much of it of uncertain character and provenance, nearly all of it inadequately monitored. Matters can only be made worse if port management personnel include one or more individuals who might conspire to bring in dangerous containers, or simply look the other way when they arrive.”
– “In the days since the DP World takeover became a matter of public knowledge and controversy, much has been made of the fact that primary responsibility for port security will remain with American authorities. Common sense tells us, however, that managers of U.S. port facilities have to be read-in on government-approved plans for securing those assets. After all, they bear some responsibility for implementing such plans.”
House Republicans continue to get overwhelmingly negative feedback from their constituents about the deal. The message is clear: Bush is blowing it. Will all the brilliant GOP political strategists–the ones who are always telling us the American people know best and that the Republican Party is most in tune with ordinary citizens–now reprimand House GOP members for taking the electorate’s pulse and reacting to bona fide national security concerns?
Nervous nellies will argue that the House Republican “hotheads” should have waited for the 45-day review of the deal. But to many knowledgeable observers of the CFIUS process, the panel is the root of the problem–not the solution. As I made clear in my first post on this subject on Feb. 18 and consistently throughout the debate, we simply cannot afford the business-as-usual attitude of the rubber-stampers at CFIUS. And if that means the UAE retaliates by pulling out of business deals with Boeing, as it is threatening to do now, so be it.
As Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn put it:
“We are indeed a commercial republic, but we should not allow commerce to dictate our republican principles any more than we should allow it to trump our wartime sensibilities, goals, or lessons. The stakes are too high, and the nobility of our effort is too great.”
The vote today is not an anomaly, but a harbinger of things to come (read: Bush’s amnesty proposal is dead on arrival).
Is anyone at the White House listening?
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