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National Guard Bill Passes House Committee

WHEELING — A bill to keep West Virginia’s soldiers out of active combat when no war has been declared passed its first hurdle and is now before the state’s House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2732, the “Protect the Guard Act,” was introduced by Delegate Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock. It would require that Congress declare war or call forth the state militia before the West Virginia National Guard could be released from state control and sent into combat. Currently, the authority to activate the Guard rests with West Virginia’s governor.

HB 2732 this week passed the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, which is chaired by McGeehan. He said he introduced the same bill each of the past four years before becoming chairman.

McGeehan is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a veteran of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The aim is to make efforts to restore some form of sanity that properly reflects constitutional law … while in the long run curbing the ease of initiating offensive and wholly unnecessary foreign war,” McGeehan said.

The idea behind the bill has seemed to resonate with many, he said.

“Of course, this is not the case with everyone, especially for some of the more longtime established folks who have been in power for quite some time,” he said. “Those who have accumulated power for great lengths of time typically are not inclined to have that power limited.”

The proposed legislation spells out McGeehan’s idea.

“In spite of the clear language of the United States Constitution, vesting the power over war exclusively in the United States Congress, the United States Executive Branch has unconstitutionally assumed that power while the United States Congress has abdicated its constitutional duty,” the measure states. “Although the United States Congress has not declared war in over 70 years, the nation has since gone to war repeatedly at the whim of the executive branch.

“When such unconstitutional actions are taken by the federal government, it is the proper role of the states themselves to take action to remedy such situations … “

McGeehan isn’t certain when or if the measure will appear on the Judiciary Committee’s agenda.

HB 2732 has bipartisan support. Among its sponsors are Delegates Michael Angelucci, D-Marion; Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson; Jim Butler, R-Mason; Mark Dean, R-Mingo; John Doyle, D-Jefferson; Amanda Estep-Burton, D-Kanawha; Bill Anderson, R-Wood; D. Rolland Jennings, R-Preston; Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming; S. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley; and Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that it will receive an up or down vote by the full Legislature,” McGeehan said.

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