At the end of July, Congress approved a supplemental appropriation funding $33 billion more for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While this funding was approved, it was also notable that along the way to this vote increasing Congressional concerns were raised about Afghanistan war policy.
The price tag for war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan has now topped over $1 trillion (now at $1.09 trillion according to National Priorities Project). While the announced August 31 withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq is welcomed news, it should be noted that about 50,000 troops will stay in Iraq and we will spend more money there in the coming years. Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan that started October 7, 2001 is already this nation’s longest war and it is escalating. Despite prior promises of a withdrawal in July 2011, the end does not now seem to be in sight. The big price tag at a time of rising deficits and a struggling economy, paired with the length of the war with no clear exit plan, may be leading lawmakers to raise objections. Or maybe it’s because they’re listening to constituents who have been raising these concerns for some time.
When the Senate first considered this year’s war supplemental at the end of May, Senator Russ Feingold offered an amendment requiring the President to submit an exit strategy and timeline. While this amendment received only 18 votes, Senator Feingold was not discouraged. He noted:
This amendment is the first attempt in the Senate to get an idea of when this nine-year war in Afghanistan will end. Only 13 senators supported my original attempt to require a timetable for Iraq, and today, a timetable is exactly what is in place in Iraq. I am confident that, over time, more and more members will listen to their constituents and support my efforts to require a flexible timeline for ending the Afghan war.
- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) May 27, 2010
When the House first took up consideration of the war supplemental on July 1, one amendment offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would have limited funding to only safe withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan received 100 votes. An amendment offered by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), David Obey (D-WI) and Walter Jones (R-NC) calling on the President to submit an exit strategy and timeline (parallel to the amendment offered by Sen. Feingold in the Senate) received 162 votes. Last year a less stringent amendment on an exit strategy had received only 138 votes.
Then the House finally voted for the war supplemental at the end of July, approving funds by a vote of 308 to 114. In 2009 a similar supplemental funding bill was opposed by only 60 Members of Congress. While these vote tallies are evidence of rising concerns, even more convincing are the statements of those who opposed funding and indicated deep doubts about the path of Afghanistan war policy. Here are excerpts from some of these statements from the House debate on July 27, 2010.
Rep. David Obey (D-Wisconsin – Chair of the House Appropriations Committee): Military experts tell us that it could take up to 10 more years to achieve any acceptable outcome in Afghanistan. We’ve already been there 9 years. I believe that is too high a price to pay.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California): Congress cannot continue to write a blank check for war in Afghanistan that has ultimately made our country less safe… The costs of this war are too enormous in blood and treasure.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts): After nearly 10 years, thousands of American troops killed or wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowed money, I believe we must radically change our policy in Afghanistan.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota): It is simply unacceptable to abandon the serious needs of our communities while calling the war in Afghanistan- the longest war in the history of the United States- an 'emergency.’
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York): I cannot in good conscience vote to continue funding this war at so high a cost and with no guarantee that our efforts are reaching our goals there and keeping the American people safe. That is why I vote “no” today.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California): Madam Speaker, without an exit strategy, approving billions more of hard-earned taxpayer dollars for the war in Afghanistan is difficult enough to justify. But this cost pales in comparison to the loss of American lives. June was the deadliest month in the war thus far, when 102 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice.
National Priorities Project - Cost of War http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home
Legislation on a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan
This legislation was offered in the Senate as S. 3197 by Sen.Feingold (D-WI) , and in the House as HR 5015 by Reps. McGovern (D-MA) and Jones (R-NC). Please urge your Senators and Representative to cosponsor this legislation.[EJH2]
Summer Votes on Afghanistan:
Senate vote May 27, 2010 on the Feingold Amendment calling on the President to submit an exit strategy for Afghanistan - failed 18-80. See the vote tally and how your Senator voted here: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=2&vote=00168
House vote on July 1, 2010 on the McGovern-Obey-Jones Amendment requiring the President to submit an exit strategy for Afghanistan - failed 162-260. See the vote tally and how your Representative voted here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll433.xml
House vote on July 1, 2010 on the Lee Amendment to limit funding to be used only for safe withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan failed 100 to 321. See the vote tally and how your Representative voted here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll432.xml
House vote on July 27 providing $33 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2010, passed 308-114, See the vote tally and how your Representative voted here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll474.xml