CHEYENNE — Rep. Tyler Lindholm brought a U.S. senator to the Wyoming Capitol on Friday to rally support for his “Defend The Guard Act,” which was intended to restrict national guard deployments without a formal declaration of war by Congress.
But an appearance by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wasn’t enough to convince Lindholm’s colleagues.
The bill failed an initial vote, 35-22, falling far short of the two-thirds majority needed for introduction in the Wyoming House.
The legislation was part of a larger conservative-led effort to end “forever wars” happening in statehouses around the country, announced in response to the continuation of active combat in the Middle East for decades carried out without a formal declaration of war by Congress.
In a joint news conference in the rotunda of the Capitol on Friday morning, Lindholm — flanked by the junior senator from Kentucky — recalled his own time in uniform and the cause he fought for, pondering whether he could support a similar war should his daughter decide to serve.
“I want there to be a mission,” said the Republican representative. “I want there to be a purpose. I want Congress to be on the line and say yes or no.”
The legislation would affect public notices for contracts related to government purchases, professional services procurements, and public works and contracts.
For Paul — in town for an event in support his friend Cynthia Lummis’ Senate campaign — the decision to take his support to Wyoming tied in with a greater effort by state legislatures to make themselves heard on foreign policy, a call he said has largely gone unheeded by members of Congress.
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That include individuals like Wyoming’s lone congresswoman Liz Cheney, Paul said, with whom he has feuded for months over her hawkish stances on the Middle East.
“Much of the country has learned that the Iraq War was a mistake — it made Iran stronger; it made havens for terrorism worse,” Paul said in an interview with the Star-Tribune. “I don’t think the Cheneys have gotten that message and someone needs to talk to them about how the Iraq War was a mistake.
“It made Iran stronger, it made us weaker, and it made terrorism grow and encouraged chaos in the Middle East,” he added. “The same with Libya, which they supported also. We’re just really on opposite sides of this debate.”
Paul recently co-sponsored legislation to hem President Donald Trump’s war powers, one of a handful of Republican members of Congress to do so.
Even if it had been introduced, Lindholm’s legislation faced a skeptical crowd. A bipartisan group of senators — including two former military members — released a statement opposing the bill.
Some of the group — which included Sens. Brian Boner, Stephan Pappas, Tara Nethercott, Eli Bebout, Mike Gierau and Dan Dockstader — said in their statement the legislation was “unconstitutional.” If passed, they said, it would have handicapped Wyoming’s National Guard and jeopardized the funding for the Wyoming Military Department, 96 percent of which comes from the federal government.
“House Bill 98 sends the wrong message to those serving in the Wyoming National Guard, and more broadly, our military serving around the globe,” said Senator Pappas, a veteran of the Wyoming Air National Guard. “It calls into question Wyoming’s support for our soldiers and airmen in the National Guard. What’s more, this misguided legislation operates under the false premise that the governor has the ability to withhold the Wyoming National Guard from federal duty — a theory the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down.”