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House Approves War Spending Bill for Afghanistan

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

The House of Representatives has voted to pass a $59-billion emergency war-funding bill for the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan and other Pentagon operational expenses. On the Senate side, the general chosen to be the chief of U.S. Central Command has condemned the leaks of tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the Afghan war in front of a Senate panel.

After months of delay, Congress has finally sent emergency war funding to President Barack Obama for his signature. The vote was 308 in favor, and 114 against. More than 100 Democrats voted against the war funding bill, and there was strong Republican support for it with only 12 Republicans voting no.

About $33 billion of those funds will go for an additional 30,000 U.S. troops for Afghanistan ordered by the president as part of his new strategy to seize the momentum from Taliban forces in the nine-year-old conflict.

The president had requested the funding in February and the Senate passed it in May. The House approved its own version in July, adding on more than $20 billion in domestic spending on education and help for farmers. The Senate stripped the bill of that domestic spending last week and sent it back to the House.

In the debate leading up to the vote, some Democratic lawmakers said they would oppose the war funding bill. Some said the leak of thousands of U.S. military documents by the Website Wikileaks reinforced their skepticism over the progress of the war in Afghanistan.

Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich called on lawmakers to vote "no" on the war supplemental bill, and, along with Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, introduced a resolution to remove U.S. forces they say have been operating in secret inside Pakistan, without congressional approval. Kucinich said American taxpayers' money is desperately needed to help resolve domestic problems at home.

"Wake up America," said Dennis Kucinich. "There is unlimited money for war. Money for a corrupt government in Afghanistan. When U.S. money is not going to the Karzai mob's personal use it goes to help the Taliban kill our troops. There is money for a corrupt government in Pakistan which helps the Taliban in Afghanistan kill our troops."

The House rejected the "Pakistan War Powers" resolution calling to remove U.S. troops from Pakistan by a vote of 372 against, 38 in favor, 4 present.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a nomination hearing for Marine General James Mattis who has been chosen to be chief of the U.S. Central Command and oversee military operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Mattis said, if confirmed, he will focus on the war in Afghanistan, and that he supports President Obama's strategy for the country. He said he believes the war in Afghanistan can be won.

Republican Senator John McCain and others praised General Mattis for his considerable command experience. McCain asked General Mattis about the leaks of thousands of U.S. military documents, and this was the general's reaction.

"I just thought it was just an appallingly irresponsible act to release this information," said General Mattis. "It did not tell anything that I have seen so far that we weren't already aware of."

General Mattis said he did not believe the leaks would have a chilling effect on troops' candor in filing field reports. He also defended the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, saying it is trending in the right direction.