Even the debate about the war in Afghanistan does not appear to have shifted significantly. Both sides see bin Laden’s death as proof that they were right.
“The Afghans now are in an even better position to take responsibility” for their own security, said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who argues that bin Laden’s demise means the United States can step up its exit from Afghanistan. President Obama has promised to begin withdrawing some of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July.
Levin said bin Laden’s death shows these reductions should be “robust.”
But Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), a critic of the withdrawal plans, said it is important for the United States not to abandon Afghanistan.
“The killing of bin Laden gives us increased momentum in the war in Afghanistan,” Lieberman said at a news conference at the Capitol. “If I were [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar, I’d be frightened right now.”
On Monday, there were few of the gestures of bipartisan unity that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Then, members of Congress stopped campaign fundraising, and dozens stood together and sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.
On Monday, the two parties said roughly the same things — they just didn’t say them together.
“To those that seek to destroy freedom by preying on innocent human life, we will not rest until we bring you to justice,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a news conference with other top Republicans.
In his own press event, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that a “man who epitomized evil has been brought to justice.”
Leaders from both parties praised the work done by President Obama and former president George W. Bush. Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have come up with a bipartisan resolution praising Sunday’s attack, and passage is likely. And Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), leaders of the homeland security committee, held a joint news conference.
But otherwise, Republican and Democratic leaders spoke separately — aides from both parties said they hadn’t even considered holding a joint event.
For the most part Congress continued Monday with its regular business, both official and unofficial. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who is quitting because of an affair with a former aide, gave his farewell address. No other senators showed up to hear it.
The House approved naming a post office after an Oklahoma soldier killed in Iraq, and a Texas courthouse after presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Congress’s unofficial business — interparty quarreling — also continued. The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent out a release attacking Republicans for plans to alter Medicare while preserving tax breaks for large oil companies.