House doves flying the coop: anti-war caucus at a crossroads

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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The informal cohort of anti-war members of Congress — who have challenged the war in Iraq, opposed an escalation in Afghanistan and attempted to end the intervention in Libya — will lose some of its most prominent members in the next congressional session.

The House will experience a particularly dramatic exodus. Texas Republican Ron Paul announced this week that he isn’t seeking re-election. California Democrat Lynn Woolsey announced her retirement last month. Arizona Republican Jeff Flake is the apparent frontrunner in a campaign for the Senate. And Democrat Dennis Kucinich faces political limbo with redistricting poised to eliminate his district in Ohio.

Woolsey, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus during the height of the Iraq war, told The Daily Caller that there are several members in each party likely to lead the movement.

“Our ranks are growing in both parties,” Woolsey said. “In particular, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Maxine Waters, Jim McGovern and John Conyers have been steadfast opponents of these wars. On the other side of the aisle, Walter Jones, John Duncan and Justin Amash have all been great allies.”

Woolsey added, “I’m also confident that whoever replaces me as the representative from California’s Sixth District will pick up where I leave off as an advocate for peace and security.”

Kucinich, a close Democratic ally of Paul and Jones on foreign policy issues — he is suing the administration with Jones, alleging a violation of the War Powers Act — also expressed optimism for the future. He said that he’s definitely running for re-election to Congress but is “considering options that go beyond Ohio.”

Kucinich praised his outgoing colleagues. “Ron Paul and Lynn Woolsey and Jeff Flake have each made a distinctive contribution to the debate in the House of Representatives. You don’t replace people of their caliber, because each has a wealth of experience,” he said.

“However, there are many individuals who are beginning to rise to the occasion in challenging the policies which create war, and who are understanding the danger to America that these wars present,” he continued. “And there are people in both parties. As a matter of fact, I’m much more optimistic today than I was a couple years ago about the ability of members of Congress to start to have an impact.”

The recent wave of Republican support for withdrawal from Afghanistan and an end to the Libya intervention gives Kucinich hope. (Ron Paul: U.S. occupation of Pakistan is next)

“Some of the newest members of Congress have shown a great deal of courage on these issues, and I think that’s telling, and they’re reflecting increasing concern at the grassroots. While you can’t really replace a Ron Paul, a Lynn Woolsey or a Jeff Flake, you can certainly see that there are new members coming forward who are ready to take up the challenge of pulling America away from war,” Kucinich said.

Asked to name individual Republicans, Kucinich said, “I could give you dozens of names, really. There’s dozens of new members who are beginning to question the direction our country is going in and the money and lives that are being wasted, and the misplaced priorities. I think it’s a very healthy thing.”

Gary Howard, national press secretary for the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign, repeated several of the names listed by Woolsey.

Asked who would fill Paul’s shoes in the House, Howard named Amash, Duncan, Jones and Illinois Republican Rep. Tim Johnson. “There are many more voices on the Right fighting for a strong national defense and a Pro-American foreign policy,” he said.

Howard also volunteered the names of freshmen Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah — vocal leaders who may eclipse anti-war House Republicans.