House approves billions for troop surge in Afghanistan
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.”