Afghan War Supplemental... Again-- Can It Actually Be Stopped?
On May 14 many of the best Democrats in the House voted against President Obama's supplemental budget for $97 billion to continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. A couple weeks later I met Donna Edwards-- one of the progressives who voted against it-- when she returned from a trip to Afghanistan to get a first-hand look. She mentioned in passing that she had been getting a great deal of pressure to change her vote. I had the impression that The Enforcer was maybe going beyond the bounds of a principled debate and making some existential threats. Existential threats? For a bill that passed 368-60?
The bill then went to the Senate where they added $5 million to cover the risk of default on a new $100 billion line of credit for the IMF. And that then passed the Conference Committee. The result: the Republicans who voted for this thing in the House are now uniformly against it and the House leadership will have to get that conference report approved with no Republican votes. That means they have to reel back in all those progressive, anti-war Democrats or it fails.
They don't have the votes. They pulled it from the schedule this morning while they go back and try to bribe and threaten enough Democrats into switching. Among the courageous progressives Blue America has supported are several who could be vulnerable to threats from Emanuel and his gangster-like tactics. Someone had already talked Jerrold Nadler out of voting against the bill when it first came up. Barney Frank has already caved-- although to be fair to Barney, he's still opposed to the Afghan build up; he just thinks the bill will either pass now with the IMF funds he supports, or later without the funds. Now they are focusing with laser-like attention on stalwart opponents of the build up in Afghanistan like Eric Massa (D-NY), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Jared Polis (D-CO), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Donna, of course... and the rest of the progressives who opposed the bill-- Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Conyers (D-MI), etc.
Here's a letter from Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy that just went out this morning:
The war supplemental expected to come before the House this week will have no exit strategy from Afghanistan, but it will have $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund to bail-out European banks-- money the IMF will use as leverage to impose economic austerity policies. Because of the inclusion of the IMF money, there is a real possibility the House could defeat the combined war/IMF supplemental, which would be a significant step towards ending the wars, as well as an important move towards reform of the IMF.
Can you call your Representative today, and ask him or her to vote no on the war supplemental? The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121: ask to be connected to your Representative.
Last month, 60 Members of the House voted against the war supplemental. But this week, the supplemental could be defeated on the floor of the House.
The key thing that's changed since the last House vote is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund to be used as a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe-- the international version of the Wall Street bailout.
House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If Republicans vote no, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month vote no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228.
Can you call your Representative today, and ask him or her to vote no on the war supplemental? If your Representative is a Republican, it may be especially helpful to emphasize opposition to the IMF bailout. If your Representative is a Democrat, it may be especially helpful to emphasize the lack of an exit strategy from Afghanistan and opposition to the IMF's austerity policies. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121.
I called my congresswoman, Diane Watson, who voted against the supplemental, originally to see what she was thinking now. Her office said she's studying the Senate version and she'll decide over the weekend. I also called Eric Massa, since he served in the military for 24 years and has a better grasp on national security issues than almost anyone else in Congress. Eric doesn't need any time to make up his mind. He's thought a lot about this and he won't change his vote. “I held George W. Bush accountable and I will not vote for any more Iraq war funding until we have a strategy in place and under way to bring our troops home. This is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, it’s about our troops and I will not bend in this position.”
UPDATE: Good News
By adding in $100 billion for an IMF bailout of European banks (plus the pernicious Lieberman-Graham amendment to exempt war crimes evidence from the Freedom of Information Act), the White House may have overreached. Banker-buddy Barney may have switched his vote because he loves the bailouts but many Democrats don't. (George Miller is another progressive who let pressure get to him and has now jumped the fence and is voting for more war.) But, as Jane Hamsher reported today, Virginia Congressman Jim Moran originally voted with Obama on the supplemental but has now switched because he opposes taking $100 billion from hard-pressed U.S. taxpayers and using it to bail out European banks. What about your representative? Give him or her a call and let him know whether or not you think this is a good use of our money. Here are some targets with phone numbers. I'm hoping for some more good news out of Virginia early next week.