Key Dem to vote against war funding

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced Tuesday he will oppose a bill providing $33 billion to fund troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Obey introduced the original version of the war funding legislation and voted for it in March, but expressed his skepticism over the progress of the Afghan war in a floor statement. 

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”I have a double, and conflicting, obligation. As chairman, I have the obligation to bring this supplemental before the House to allow the institution to work its will,” he said. “But I also have the obligation to my conscience to indicate — by my individual vote — my profound skepticism that this action will accomplish much more than to serve as a recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill.”

The measure, which the Senate passed last week, is expected to move through the House this week. GOP leaders indicated their caucus will support it in large numbers, but Obey’s statement demonstrated the deep divisions within the Democratic Party over the war in Afghanistan. 

The Wisconsin lawmaker’s statement comes just after the WikiLeaks document release, which showed that U.S. forces believed Pakistani intelligence operatives were aiding Islamic extremists despite receiving American anti-terror aid. 

Obey, who is retiring, has long been a critic of the war. In his speech, he said that the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan have not been reliable partners in fighting Islamic extremists and that war spending should be tamped down while the United States is grappling with large budget deficits. 

“I have the highest respect and appreciation for our troops who have done everything asked of them. They are being let down by the inability of the governments of Afghanistan and in some instances Pakistan to do their parts,” he said. “I would be willing to support additional war funding — provided that Congress would vote — up or down — explicitly on whether or not to continue this policy after a new National Intelligence Estimate is produced. But absent that discipline, I cannot look my constituents in the eye and say that this operation will hurt our enemies more than us.”

Obey’s statement runs counter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) sentiment that debate over the Afghanistan war should be separate from the vote on the war supplemental.