Afghanistan War Funding Vote Shows Growing Pressure for Change
Congress finished up the process of appropriating another unconditional $33 billion for war this week ($37 billion, including related economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan) when the House voted 308 to 114 to approve a Senate version of the administration’s supplemental funding bill to pay for the troop surge in Afghanistan. The Senate version eliminated $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs in the U.S. previously added by the House with administration support. (Opponents of the war funding stressed the ‘more money for war but none for domestic needs’ theme in the floor debate. See excerpts from their statements.)
Is there any good news here? Yes, there is, when you consider that just fourteen months ago the same Congress approved a similar war supplemental by a vote of 368 to 60. Opposition to the Afghanistan war in the House, measured by the refusal to vote funds for it, has nearly doubled in the space of a year. And while most of the refusal to vote more unconditional funding for war came from Democrats, dissatisfaction with the U.S. war policy in Afghanistan is beginning to take on a bipartisan character. Last year 9 Republican members of the House voted against the war supplemental. This year 12 said ‘no’ to more unconditional funding for war.
By another measure there is even more opposition to the Afghanistan war policy in the House. In June 2009 the House defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) that would have required the administration to submit an Afghanistan exit strategy to Congress by a vote of 138 to 278. On July 1 or this year 162 members of the House voted for a more stringent McGovern exit strategy amendment that also required the administration to provide a timetable for withdrawal. The same day 100 members voted for an amendment submitted by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) that would have restricted funds to pay for the safe and orderly removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Skepticism over the administration’s Afghanistan policy and opposition to an unending war is clearly growing. Continued public pressure to scale back and bring the war to a close will promote that growth. From my contacts on Capitol Hill I think it is almost certain that the administration will have to act in the coming year to scale back the U.S. resources pouring into the war in Afghanistan. But scaling back resources will not be enough to change the course of events. While U.S. officials acknowledge that there is no military solution to the war, the U.S. continues to pursue aggressive military operations. And it has not yet signaled willingness to include Afghan Taliban insurgents in the negotiations to achieve a political settlement that alone end the fighting and create the possibility of a better life for Afghans. We need to work in the months ahead for a ceasefire and inclusive national reconciliation talks for a political settlement that will include the phased withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.