Obama wants more money for Afghanistan war. Will Congress grant it?
Congress faces a formidable agenda this summer, but nothing is as wrenching as upcoming votes to fund new spending on the Afghanistan war.
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Now, GOP leaders are threatening to vote against President Obama's latest war funding request over objections to a $23 billion add-on to prevent more layoffs of teachers.Skip to next paragraph
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"If Democrats plan to load this up with a lot of extra spending on issues that don't relate to supporting our troops or true emergencies, like Haiti, I'd expect a lot of Republicans to oppose it," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner, last week.
In a briefing with reporters on Wednesday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland said the House will work with the Senate version of the war funding bill and not mark up a separate version of its own. That announcement would appear to limit prospects for $23 billion in additional education funding. But Republican leaders are withholding judgment. "We'll have to see what they actually bring to the floor," says Michael Steel, a spokesman for GOP leader Boehner.
Leaders in neither party want to see a full debate over whether the US strategy in Afghanistan – a war launched by a Republican president and stepped-up by a Democrat – is necessary to national security.
Democrats worry that a strong opposition to the war could weaken Mr. Obama or make them appear weak on defense. To date, the military policy debate has focused on issues such as whether to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for openly gay service men and women or whether Congress should buck the Pentagon and fund a second jet engine for the F-35 fighter.
"The Afghan war is not a pressing concern for most Americans. Not many incumbents in Congress will face much scrutiny on the issue of the war this fall, but that could change if we have a lot of casualties this summer in Kandahar," says Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official and Iraq combat veteran who resigned from the Foreign Service in protest over US policy in Afghanistan.
"Far too many members of Congress are unwilling to accept that it is their role to ask the hard questions for fear of being seen as not supportive of the troops. The war debate is mainly among Democratic members on the House side," he adds.
Obama is asking Congress for another $33 billion, mainly to move 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, where the largest operation since the war started – to secure Kandahar – is under way.
For the past eight years, supplemental defense bills have passed the Senate with at least 90 votes.