House ap­proves bil­lions for troop surge in Afghanistan

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE -

WASHINGTON — Mem­bers of Congress ended a months-long stand­off Tues­day and agreed to fi­nan­cial sup­port for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, but not with­out a de­bate about with­draw­ing U.S. troops from neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan.

The re­lease this week of leaked, clas­si­fied re­ports about the Afghanistan war pro­pelled ef­forts by Reps. Den­nis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Ron Paul, R-Lake Jack­son, to push to bring U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel home from Pak­istan by year’s end.

The House voted 372-38 against the res­o­lu­tion to cur­tail mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Pak­istan, but the de­bate served as yet an­other ex­am­ple of grow­ing anti-war sen­ti­ment in Congress.

Ear­lier this month, 162 law­mak­ers voted to set a with­drawal date from Afghanistan. And on Tues­day, more than 100 Democrats voted against the war fund­ing. The war mea­sure passed 308-114 and now goes to Obama for his sig­na­ture.

In the Cen­tral Texas del­e­ga­tion, only Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, sup­ported the bill. GOP Reps. Michael McCaul of Austin, John Carter of Round Rock and La­mar Smith of San An­to­nio voted against it.

“In light of all the ques­tions that have been raised, it seems to me it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for us to vote on a blank check for this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, DMass. “I am deeply trou­bled with all that is com­ing out. We’re not do­ing hear­ings; we’re not do­ing our over­sight.”

The pres­i­dent had urged pas­sage of the war spend­ing pack­age dur­ing a bi­par­ti­san meet­ing Tues­day with con­gres­sional lead­ers. The Pen­tagon has said its fund­ing would be­gin to run out next month.

The res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing that U.S. forces with­draw from Pak­istan had the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing sup­ported by Paul, one of the cham­ber’s most lib­er­tar­ian mem­bers, and Kucinich, one of the most lib­eral. Both were un­suc­cess­ful can­di­dates for pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tions in 2008 — Paul for the GOP, Kucinich for the Democrats. Their res­o­lu­tion would have been largely sym­bolic, ex­press­ing the will of Congress.

Yet, lead­ing Democrats said it went too far and could have un­der­mined the U.S. strat­egy of work­ing to pre­vent Afghanistan from be­com­ing a safe haven for ter­ror­ists.

“Pak­istan is an im­por­tant part­ner in the fight against ex­trem­ism,” said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. “Any at­tempt to cut the mil­i­tary ties of the two coun­tries would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.”

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