House Republican leaders added their voices today to those who say the focus on health care on Capitol Hill is crowding out other crucial issues, namely what to do in Afghanistan.
“With Afghanistan now becoming such a very troublesome issue, we should be making progress on health care so it doesn’t get in the way of a very, very important national security issue,” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, told reporters after a private GOP meeting. “Central Asia is the Persian Gulf of the 21st century. We are foolish to be ignoring that threat right now."
"Health care in this building has made it so that it seems we can't get anything else done. We have burning issues out there is this country," Cantor added.
Obama, who is weighing a revamped strategy for Afghanistan and whether to send even more reinforcements than the 21,000 he has already dispatched, is likely to need Republican support for whatever he decides because the vast majority of Democrats are opposed to any escalation of the US mission.
"With all the attention there is on health care, the attention that needs to be paid to what is happening in Afghanistan isn’t happening,” added Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader.
He and other key lawmakers have demanded that General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, appear before House and Senate committees to explain his report to the White House that calls for additional troops.
"What strategy does he believe is going to be necessary in order to secure Afghanistan so that we deny the Taliban and al Qaeda a safe haven from which to train, operate and organize to come after Americans again? And so, we need General McChrystal up here as soon as possible to help members understand. I think the President ought to take his request as soon as possible,” Boehner added.
“I do believe that there is a lot of danger in the delay. First, with insufficient troops in the field, we put the troops that we do have there at greater risk. Secondly, if the President doesn’t come to a decision soon—what will happen is— we will miss the window of getting more troops into the theater as the spring thaw occurs, when the additional troops are going to be necessary. And so, I would hope that the timetable that’s been discussed by the Administration gets sped up, and gets sped up rapidly.”
As the Globe reported on Monday, some lawmakers and advocates are chafing that the sluggish pace on a health care overhaul has backed up priorities including climate change, transportation, and financial regulation.
On Fox Business Network this afternoon, Boehner said House Democrats should realize that their plan, with a government-run public option, is not going to get through.
"They're still moving in the direction of those big government plan, high taxes and big deficits. At some point it's going to become clear that this can't pass. I don't know whether that's three weeks from now, four weeks from now, six weeks from now, but at some point it's going to become clear," Boehner said.
"And then they're going to have to make a decision - do they accept the defeat or do they hit the reset button and scrap all these big government ideas and work with Republicans to make our current system work better."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.