Left and Right Press President Obama on War Funding Bill
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has turned into a major legislative challenge on Capitol Hill, as members press President Obama from the left and the right on a number of fronts: the logistics of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the release of photos showing abuse of detainees and a proposed loan to the International Monetary Fund.
The vote on the bill was delayed last week, and House Democratic aides said yesterday they are still trying to round up enough votes to pass the provision. The bill, which costs about $100 billion, would fund the wars through September.
Despite the discord, the legislation ultimately is likely to pass, but there are numerous obstacles to overcome.
The tension over the spending request, which Obama sent to Congress in April, illustrates continued conflicts between the president and both parties in Congress. Obama's speech last month on national security, including a defense of his proposal to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, did not silence the debate.
House Democrats are looking to strip the bill of a provision, backed by the Senate, that would sidestep the Freedom of Information Act and bar the release of photos showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama angered some critics on the left last month when he reversed a decision to release the photos.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the authors of the photo ban, said yesterday he would look to block the bill in the Senate if the ban was not included.
Meanwhile, another House bloc of Democrats remains concerned about the deployment of 21,000 more troops in Afghanistan, which is at the center of Obama's policy on the war. And House Republicans are sharply opposing an increase in U.S. aid to the International Monetary Fund. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) dubbed the proposal a "global bailout."
Members of both parties oppose a renewed effort by the Obama administration to get backing for its plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo. Ninety senators voted against the plan a few weeks ago.
"It's a mess," Graham said of the bill, partially faulting the "demagoguery" of legislators from both parties who have suggested that bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States would constitute a major security risk.
The House passed the first version of the bill last month with almost unanimous support among Republicans, who back Obama's proposals on Iraq and Afghanistan.
But a provision to offer a $100 billion line of credit to the IMF, which the Senate added at Obama's request, has generated nearly unanimous opposition from House Republicans.
"A war funding bill should be about war funding and nothing else," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). "It's unconscionable Democrats are passing a global bailout on the backs of our soldiers."