House Republicans, allied with anti-war Democrats, may be the best hope to save the Freedom of Information Act from the White House or to oppose troop escalation in Afghanistan. But it's not by choice.
Here's how the bizarre alliance took shape: The supplemental spending bill President Barack Obama needs to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is proving to be a tempting vehicle on which to slap unrelated measures, because it has the support of Republicans and "centrist" Democrats looking to support the troops.
Because of these measures, the supplemental might not pass.
The Senate, with President Obama's support, stuck in a measure that would prevent the release of photographs of U.S. personnel torturing or otherwise abusing detainees. On top of that, Senate Democrats attached $108 billion for the International Monetary Fund, money the House didn't appropriate and that liberal members don't want allocated.
House support for the IMF funding was already uncertain, given the conditions some Democrats want attached.
Now House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) claims he won't vote for a bill with any side projects included.
"Let's be clear: a troop funding bill should fund our troops, period," Boehner said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference. "I will oppose this legislation if it is loaded up with billions in spending that is unrelated to our military's core mission of protecting our nation and our interests. Additional funding for the IMF should be judged on its own merits and in its own legislation."
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) echoed Boehner's criticism on Wednesday, though Media Matters noted that he had no such qualms about voting for a 2007 war funding bill that included $17 billion for a wide variety of domestic programs.
Anti-war Democrats in the House are already reluctant to vote for more funding for escalation in Afghanistan. Throw in money for the IMF and a gutting of FOIA, and it's even less attractive, regardless of how popular the president may be.
Some, like California Rep. Maxine Waters, are worried the IMF would use the money to force budget cuts in developing nations and further damage the ailing global economy.
"In conference, we urge inclusion of language to ensure that the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes," Waters wrote in a letter to House colleagues.
The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, introduced by Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was attached unanimously into the Senate version just before the Memorial Day recess. The amendment permits the defense secretary to supersede FOIA and suppress any photographs taken of detainees between 9/11 and Obama's inauguration. All Defense Secretary Robert Gates has to do is claim that the photographs would "endanger" U.S. troops or any other citizens, and the photos sit for at least another three years on the shelf.
"[T]he language in the bill is clear that it would apply to the current ACLU lawsuit" seeking photos, read a statement from Graham's office.
Lieberman told Glenn Thrush of Politico Tuesday that his and Graham's amendment has the support of the White House. At a press conference regarding her recent trip to China, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also tentatively supported Lieberman-Graham as a piece of the troop supplemental, though she seemed unfamiliar with the nature of the amendment.
"If that's what the president supports, then that's what we support," Pelosi said. "I will support the supplemental. Let's see what's in the supplemental."
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