WASHINGTON – House lawmakers this afternoon are planning to vote on a bill that would add $33 billion in spending for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a proposal that has stoked further controversy in the wake of new disclosures this week.
House rules will require a two-thirds majority to pass the bill, which includes several other spending items, and the vote is expected to be close.
Representative James P. McGovern, a leading anti-war Democrat, has been harshly critical of the additional funding.
“All of us are dedicated to defeating al Qaeda wherever they are, but our current policy in Afghanistan is deeply flawed,” the Worcester Democrat said this morning. “Occupying Afghanistan in support of a corrupt and incompetent government will continue to claim the lives of our soldiers, it will continue to bankrupt us, and it will not enhance our national security.”
Earlier this month, McGovern cosponsored an amendment calling for development of a plan to pull out troops from Afghanistan. It was defeated largely as a result of Republican votes, but the measure was supported by 153 Democrats. All 10 members of the Massachusetts delegation backed the amendment.
House rules will prevent amendments on today’s bill, so McGovern will be unable to bring the amendment up a second time and the vote will be strictly over whether or not to extend war funding.
McGovern and other opponents of the Afghan war have seized on new documents to argue anew that President Obama should begin withdrawing the troops. The classified documents, leaked Sunday night by the organization WikiLeaks, suggest the American-backed Pakistani government has been secretly helping the Taliban
Representative David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, formally brought the issue to the House floor this morning as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. But he said he was conflicted, and planned to vote against the bill because he opposes the war funding.
”I have the obligation to bring this supplemental before the House to allow the institution to work its will,” Obey said. “But I also have the obligation to my conscience to indicate, by my individual vote, my profound skepticism that this action will accomplish much more than to serve as a recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill.”
Obey said he would support the funding if Congress would also vote on whether to continue President Obama’s policy to keep troops in Afghanistan.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer this morning told reporters that the funding should be extended, with a debate on the war potentially coming at another time.
“The fact is, those troops are there now, and the money, as we have been told by the Pentagon, will be depleted as of the seventh of August,” Hoyer said.
“Whatever we decide on policy in the long-term does not affect our obligation today to make sure the troops, as long as they are there, have the resources they need.” he added.
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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.