How the Death Star Petitioners Can Strike Back


White House officials took a great shot -- but they shouldn't get cocky.


When the White House last week turned down the people's demand for a Death Star, the news was as devastating to the Republic as Sen. Binks' (I-Naboo) motion to grant emergency wartime powers to the chancellor. The wink-laden rejection might have been light-hearted and well-meaning, but as the decision was handed down, it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror -- and were suddenly silenced.

The Obama administration may think the issue's been settled. It couldn't be more wrong -- and worse, it could pay the price for its lack of vision. Petitions are not the Imperials' only hope.

Everyone knows that spending bills for gigantic weapons systems originate in the House -- not the Oval Office. So it shouldn't surprise us that an enterprising House staffer whipped up an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would set aside $857,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 for the construction of not one, not two, but up to three Death Stars:

The proposal paves the way for a major legislative victory for defense hawks and Imperial diehards. Yes, Obama already signed the NDAA into law for FY2013, but there's no reason why this proposal can't be refined and brought up for a vote at a later date. The amendment already nixes the White House's criticisms of the original Death Star proposal. For instance, before the Pentagon could spend the bulk of the allocated funds, the amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to prove that the battlestation can't be defeated by one farm boy's lucky shot from a snub fighter. Instead of one shield generator protecting the weapon while it's under construction, that number would be quintupled, adding extra defenses no pitiful little band could destroy. There's even an extra clause setting aside money for lightsaber research -- although skeptical lawmakers may vote to strike that language, as it's hard to see how lightsabers would be anything but a security risk on a battlestation.

Saying no to a petition is simply too easy; in today's crisis-driven legislative environment, Death Star petitioners must force the issue. They'll almost certainly enjoy the upper hand in Congress; Obama's desire to negotiate has always trumped his taste for brinksmanship. In fact, I'd put the petitioners' chances at even better than 3,720 to 1. If Obama's concessions on the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff are any guide, it's clear his feeble skills are no match for the power of Republican-controlled political institutions. 

Search your feelings, Barack. You know it to be true.

h/t ArmsControlWonk

Update: Galactic Empire Public Relations has now responded to the White House's petition rejection. Governor Tarkin could not be reached for comment on the House amendment.

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Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

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