Senate Republicans Skip White House Afghan Briefing [UPDATED]
Senate Republican Leaders Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) declined the president's invitation to be briefed Thursday on Afghanistan war policy going forward.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said that the invitation came yesterday and that the leadership already had a meeting scheduled with more than a dozen Republican senators. It was too difficult to rearrange all those schedules, he said.
In general, he said, McConnell has attended a number of briefings at the White House and will continue to do so. A White House aide said that Kyl and McConnell would be invited to a future briefing on Afghan strategy.
Update, 5:50PM ET: Stewart emails over more information. Though McConnell missed the White House meeting, he did attend an Afghanistan briefing in the Capitol this afternoon with Amb. Holbrook here in the Capitol. "Also," Stewart writes, "I just found out that Sen. McConnell, in cooperation with Sen. Reid, asked the White House to sked the meeting next week. But late yesterday afternoon, we got a call saying it would be this afternoon. Since he was unable to make the time at the White House, he went to the briefing here at the Capitol."
Also Thursday, reports emerged of Obama's plans to dispatch 4,000 additional soldiers and hundreds of civilian advisers to Afghanistan this spring and summer, along with increasing aid to neighboring Pakistan.
The Associated Press reports:
Obama plans to lay out his revamped strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday. Several sources told The Associated Press it includes 20 recommendations for countering a persistent insurgency that spans the two countries' border...
The plan also strongly backs a recommendation to increase aid to Pakistan, conditioned on improvements in that government's handling of militants in the border region, officials said. The plan would triple humanitarian aid to $1.5 billion a year for five years. It would tie military aid to performance, with a specific caution that Pakistan must cut government ties with insurgents.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) represented Senate Democratic leadership. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) were also present, as were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
"This was nothing more than a snub -- pure and simple," said a senior Senate Democratic aide.