House votes on pared-down measure to fund warWASHINGTON (AP) — The House votes Tuesday to send President Barack Obama legislation that funds the troop surge in Afghanistan but is shorn of financing for domestic programs that Democrats wanted to attach.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House votes Tuesday to send President Barack Obama legislation that funds the troop surge in Afghanistan but is shorn of financing for domestic programs that Democrats wanted to attach.
The nearly $59 billion measure to fund Obama’s additional 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and other programs is expected to win strong support from Republicans. It faces some opposition from Democrats, frustrated both by the course of the war and angry that their domestic priorities were ignored.
With the new war spending, the total amount that Congress has allotted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will surpass $1 trillion.
Pentagon leaders had warned that money to fund the troops could run out as early as August 7, prompting the House, which is leaving at the end of the week for its August recess, to accept a pared-down Senate version of the legislation.
Last week the Senate rejected a larger, House-favored bill that would have included billions of dollars to help keep teachers on the job, provide aid for college students and beef up border security.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said he was torn between his obligation to bring the bill to the floor and his “profound skepticism” that the money would lead to a successful conclusion of the war.
Even if there were greater confidence in the Afghan government, Obey said, “it would likely take so long it will obliterate our ability to make the kinds of long-term investments in our own country that are so desperately needed.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., cited recently leaked classified documents he said revealed some of the corruption and incompetence of the Afghan government.
“We’re told we can’t extend unemployment, or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom, but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan,” said McGovern. “I think we need to do more nation-building here at home.”
Obama urged passage of the war-funding bill, saying in a Rose Garden statement it was needed “to ensure that our troops have the resources they need and that we’re able to do what’s necessary for our national security.”
The president also addressed the unauthorized release of the sensitive documents — thousands of battlefield reports — saying he was concerned they “could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations.”
Republicans are chiding Democrats for delaying for months before ending up with the same bill the Senate passed in May.
“We’ve been through all of this wrangling, and for what?” House Republican leader John Boehner said at a news conference. “All we’ve created is more uncertainty for our troops in the field, more uncertainty for the Pentagon, and it’s all unnecessary.”
Obama requested the emergency funding last February. After the Senate passed it in May, the House on July 1 approved its own version, tacking on more than $20 billion in domestic spending. The Senate last week rejected that approach, falling 14 votes short of what was needed to break a GOP-led filibuster.
The bill includes more than $33.5 billion for the additional 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and to pay for other Pentagon operational expenses, $5.1 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund, $6.2 billion for State Department aid programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Haiti and $13.4 billion in benefits for Vietnam war veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
In addition to stripping money out for teachers and student aid, the final bill omits more than $4 billion requested by the administration to finance settlements of several long-standing lawsuits against the government, including $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination by the Agriculture Department against black farmers and $3.4 billion for mismanaging Indian trust funds.
“We have a moral and legal responsibility to settle those claims,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., adding that he was “very disappointed” Senate Republicans did not go along with paying the settlements, although the costs would not have added to the federal deficit.