Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is slated to take up a $93.5 billion spending bill that includes $33 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Senate passed late last month. The war supplemental has divided the Democratic caucus, with many Democrats uneasy about spending billions more on the war in Afghanistan while they are unable to scrap together the votes to extend unemployment insurance due to a backlash from conservative members claiming it would be too expensive.
In order to allay the concerns of Democrats who feel like they are paying for a war with no end in sight, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) has authored an amendment, along with Rep. David Obey (D-MI), that would require the President to submit a timeline for the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Earlier today, Think Progress joined McGovern on a conference call and asked him why his more conservative colleagues see extending unemployment insurance as too expensive but raise no issue with the cost of the war. McGovern said that the unemployed have no lobby in Washington and suggested that if Americans paid more attention to the war, legislators would be less likely to vote for blank checks for the conflict:
TP: I have two questions. One, how much support do you think you’ll have from your caucus and also from the leadership tomorrow for the vote tomorrow on requiring the President to supply a timeline for the drawdown, the second question is why do you think your colleagues are able to easily dismiss additional aid for the unemployed or Medicaid expansions, or extensions rather, and yet are unable to continually vote for funding for the war?
MCGOVERN: We haven’t done the whip count, so we don’t know, we’re hoping for a very strong vote, we’re going to work it like we want to win it. [...] The question about unemployment insurance, the reality is the jobless, those who are unemployed, don’t have a lobby up here. [...] On the war quite frankly, it’s kinda moved to the background. [...] We’re not asked to pay for the war, there’s no war tax, there’s no draft, we’re all just weeding about our business, and even in our newspapers with the exception of the recent General McChrystal flap, the war has moved off the front page. So people just kinda go along to get along and we just keep on going along and not feel the pressure to change anything. Well, part of the reason we want this debate tomorrow and part of the reason we’re doing this call is because we want to increase the pressure on our colleagues is and get people across the country to understand this is a big deal, people are dying over there, we are going bankrupt as a result of this war, we don’t have a clearly defined mission on what we’re doing over there. [...] I think to the extent we can focus the attention on what’s happening over there, the more and more we’ll see people say we need to change this policy.
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Last month, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced a similar amendment to the Senate’s war funding bill that would’ve required the President to submit a timeline for withdrawal to the Congress. It failed 18-80. While President Obama has identified July 2011 as the date when he plans to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan, the administration has sent mixed signals about how many soldiers it will bring home and how long it will take.