In the aftermath of news that 35 Pakistanis have been killed so far this year by unmanned U.S. aerial vehicles—drones—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is calling on Congress to play a role in reforming existing policy governing the machines.
Ellison addressed the matter in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, noting that drones have yielded positive results for the military. Still, he said it's time for Congress to "exercise oversight and craft policies that govern the use of lethal force."
The heart of the problem is that our technological capability has far surpassed our policy. As things stand, the executive branch exercises unilateral authority over drone strikes against terrorists abroad. In some cases, President Obama approves each strike himself through “kill lists.” While the president should be commended for creating explicit rules for the use of drones, unilateral kill lists are unseemly and fraught with hazards.
In the guest column, Ellison laid out three important aspects any sort of framework governing drone actions should include:
- Do more to avoid any innocent civilian casualties.
- Require an independent judicial review of any executive-branch "kill list."
- The U.S. must collaborate with the international community to develop a widely accepted set of legal standards.
Ellison Sees Potential Cuts for Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Ellison was also outspoken late last week in a guest column on The Huffington Post, saying Congress should "embrace the idea of ridding ourselves of wasteful giveaways to the fossil fuel industry."
The Master Limited Partnership is an obscure but harmful multibillion dollar loophole that allows fossil fuel companies to avoid all income taxes on transportation or processing of fossil fuels -- things like oil pipelines. Renewable energy companies don't have the same option, meaning the taxpayer is subsidizing polluters at the expense of cleaner, renewable energy. The total cost to the taxpayer? $2.4 billion dollars every 5 years. Now, some folks propose to extend the Master Limited Partnership to green industries. That's fine, but what about leveling the playing field and cutting the deficit at the same?
The fifth district congressman said any governmental cuts should reflect the priorities and needs of the United States, not allow "oil companies [to] get away with more."
"Rather than cutting important lifelines like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, let's cut corporate tax loopholes like the Master Limited Partnership," he wrote. "The five largest oil companies made more than $1 trillion in profits in the last decade. They don't need our help."