Sen. Nelson introduces war bonds bill to finance military in Iraq and Afghanistan

The United States would begin financing its military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan with war bonds under new legislation introduced Tuesday.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) unveiled the "United States War Bonds Act of 2009" early this afternoon, which would authorize the Treasury Department to begin selling bonds to fund the wars.

The bonds, Nelson said, would be purposed with helping to pay for the military efforts, in particular the surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, without having to resort to the "war surtax" that has been discussed by some liberals in the House and Senate.

"I believe that we need shared sacrifice and fiscal discipline in financing the war effort,” Nelson said in a statement. “I don't believe our first instinct should always be a rush to tax. The government has gone to great lengths to address the economic downturn and adding new taxes right now could undermine those efforts."

Nelson had floated the idea of the bonds last week as talk of a surtax on wealthy Americans reached its apex, and the senator followed through by releasing draft legislation today.

The 2009 Act is modeled on the war bonds laws during World War II, which provided $54 billion in funding to the mammoth U.S. military effort in that war.

It's not clear whether the Nelson bill will have legs, though fellow centrist Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told NBC News last week that he thought the idea had some merit.

"I think that's a great idea," Lieberman said, "But I think we shouldn't shrink from a war tax in which everybody is asked to contribute a little bit to this effort."