Grumbling over Afghanistan war grows as House approves funding
WASHINGTON — Democrats in the U.S. House begrudgingly approved an additional $37 billion late Thursday to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a growing number of members of President Barack Obama’s own party doubt his strategy in Afghanistan.
The war funding bill, which passed by a vote of 215-210, would allocate money for equipment and support to troops in both countries, including the additional 30,000 troops Obama ordered deployed to Afghanistan in December. The Senate must still approve the legislation.
But the fight to push the bill through the House illustrated the widespread doubts about the war policy among Democrats, even as they backed Obama’s selection of Gen. David Petraeus last week to command the troops in Afghanistan. Aware of the opposition of some members, House Democratic leaders had stalled for weeks on scheduling a troop funding vote.
And before they approved the war funding, a block of Democrats insisted on holding votes on a series of measures to show their disapproval of the war.
One hundred fifty-three House Democrats and nine Republicans voted for an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., that would require Obama to pres- ent a plan by next April for the “safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops” and allow a vote in Congress to stop war funding if withdrawal doesn’t start by next July, the time administration officials have said they will start reducing forces in Afghanistan.
Ninety-three Democrats, along with seven Republicans, backed an even more restrictive amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., that would allow the war funds to be spent only on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Neither amendment passed, because nearly all Republicans opposed them, along with many Democrats. But Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., indicated that he thought the Afghan war is unwinnable.
“If I had my way, I would never bring this to the floor,” Obey said. “I believe this is a fool’s errand.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who opposed the amendments, said of Obama that “we need to give him more time.” But Hoyer added of the war, “there is a growing level of concern — the vote reflected it.”