(Boise, Idaho) – Yesterday the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee of the Montana House of Representatives passed H.B. 527, the Defend the Guard Act, and the bill will proceed to the House floor. This bill would prohibit the deployment of the Montana National Guard into overseas combat missions without a declaration of war by Congress as required by Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.
The final vote was seven to six, with Chairwoman Katie Zolnikov (R-District 45), Rep. Steven Galloway (R-District 24), Rep. Paul Fielder (R-District 13), Rep. Larry Brewster (R-District 44), Rep. Greg Kmetz (R-District 38), Rep. Casey Knudsen (R-District 33), and Rep. Robert Phalen (R-District 36) voting in favor, and Rep. Paul Green (R-District 41), Rep. Laurie Bishop (D-District 60), Rep. Derek Harvey (D-District 74), Rep. Josh Kassmier (R-District 27), Rep. Kelly Kortum (D-District 65), and Rep. Katie Sullivan (D-District 89) voting against.
You can watch the complete hearing here.
Rep. Lee Deming (R-District 55) is the lead sponsor of H.B. 527. A quarter of the Montana House of Representatives has joined him in co-sponsoring the Defend the Guard Act, including Rep. Casey Knudsen (R-District 33), Rep. Sherry Essmann (R-District 52), Rep. Braxton Mitchell (R-District 3), Rep. Paul Fielder (R-District 13), Rep. Sue Vinton (R-District 56), Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-District 22), Rep. Mary Caferro (D-District 82), Rep. Jennifer Carlson (R-District 69), Rep. Jedediah Hinkle (R-District 67), Rep. Brandon Ler (R-District 35), Rep. Amy Regier (R-District 6), Rep. Ron Marshall (R-District 87), Rep. Joe Read (R-District 93), Rep. James Bergstrom (R-District 30), Rep. Brad Molnar (R-District 28), Rep. Tom McGillvray (R-District 23), Rep. Greg Kmetz (R-District 38), Rep. Jodee Etchart (R-District 48), Rep. Russ Miner (R-District 19), Rep. Bob Phalen (R-District 36), Rep. Lyn Hellegaard (R-District 97), Rep. Tanner Smith (R-District 11), Rep. Neil Duram (R-District 2), and Rep. Naarah Hastings (R-District 50).
Twenty-four people testifed in favor of H.B. 527, including Christopher Enget, Purple Heart recipient and Strategic Director of Concerned Veterans of America, Darin Gaub, cofounder of Restore Liberty and representative of the Montana Freedom Caucus, Sid Daoud, Chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party and Kalispell city councilman, Ray Southworth, Vietnam War vietnam and American Legionnaire, Keegan Medrano, Policy Director of the ACLU of Montana, Scott Horton, author and Director of the Libertarian Institute, and Dan McKnight, founder and Chairman of Bring Our Troops Home. The number of bill proponents exceeded the capacity of the committee room, requiring some to stand in the hallway, and time limitations only permitted some to give their names and brief approval.
Gaub, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with seven overseas deployments and extensive experience in the Pentagon, published his comphrensive written testimony as an op-ed, which was subsequently reprinted by multiple outlets in Montana and nationally, including RealClearDefense. Gaub spoke about his support for the Defend the Guard Act in an interview with Liam McCollum, a prominent local liberty activist.
Defend the Guard legislation has been introduced in sixteen states in 2023 and is expected to reach over twenty-five by the end of the year. On February 15 a Defend the Guard bill (S.B. 1367) passed the requisite State Senate committee in Arizona and will proceed to a floor vote.
“If we were to pass this, we’d be the first state in the union to pass this. And I’ve heard from some folks that Montana can’t be first. If this is going to happen, we can’t be first,” Rep. Deming said during his closing statement. “And I just wonder about that. You know, why not? Montana has been first in a lot of things, and I think this is a great idea. And I think it honors the sacrifices that these people have made for us. And so why not be the first in the nation to do this, and have the other states follow?”
“Before he was a legislator, Rep. Deming was an educator. And I believe those qualities shone brightly during his testimony,” said Dan McKnight. “In Montana, Defend the Guard has a bill champion who is intelligent, well-read, and knows the facts inside and out. And as a freshman he has a better understanding of his oath of office than even General Hronek.”
There were eight opponents of H.B. 527, including Major General John P. Hronek, Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard, Mike Talia of the American Legion Department of Montana, and Joe Fletcher of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Montana. General Hronek’s primary legal argument was that “as is the case with many of Congress’ powers, the power to call forth the organized militia has been delegated to the president and the secretary of Defense…” Further, General Hronek believes that if the Montana National Guard is not able to participate in executive wars of choice, the Department of Defense would defund the state’s units and recall its equipment.
“A branch of the federal government cannot ‘delegate’ one of its constitutionally proscribed powers to another branch without an amendment. Full-stop. It’s not legal for the president to make the decision to go to war just like it wouldn’t be legal if a majority of the Supreme Court voted to raise taxes,” explained McKnight. “The ‘defund’ argument has always been a paper tiger. Congress holds the purse strings, not a vindictive Pentagon. There is no political will or desire to strip a state of its National Guard and leave it defenseless against natural disasters or other crises. If General Hronek believes that constitutionalists like Matt Rosendale or fine fellows like Jon Tester would rather vote to defund the Montana National Guard than vote on a declaration of war, he ought to come out and say so. That is not the position of Bring Our Troops Home.”
Sgt. Dan McKnight is a thirteen-year veteran of the U.S. military, with service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, U.S. Army, and Idaho Army National Guard, including an eighteen month combat deployment in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. He founded Bring Our Troops Home, a national, non-partisan veterans organization which advocates the return of congressional war powers and an immediate end of the United States’ unconstitutional wars in the Middle East and Africa, in 2019.
“Yesterday’s committee hearing in Montana is a great victory for the National Guard and for our oath to the U.S. Constitution,” McKnight concluded. “And I believe it demonstrates the discrepancy between soldiers and enlisted men who support the Defend the Guard movement, and many officers and career administrators whose personal interests are too invested in the status quo of endless, open-ended warmaking by the executive. Passage of this bill will make U.S. foreign policy more accountable, and that scares them.”
For more information about H.B. 527 and the national Defend the Guard movement, please visit DefendTheGuard.US or contact Communications Director Hunter DeRensis at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview with Sgt. Dan McKnight.