Despite ongoing concerns about the cost of troop escalation in Afghanistan, House leadership does not support a proposed tax to help pay for the war, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference Thursday.
As Pelosi has acknowledged, many Democrats are unconvinced that the United States can afford to ramp up its longstanding presence in Afghanistan. Among them is Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee and whose support was key to passing the last war funding bill back in June. Obey said last week that he'd oppose any escalation that couldn't be paid for.
Pelosi quickly backed him up at the time, but on Thursday she distanced herself and her caucus from Obey's solution: a graduated war tax.
"With the highest regard for Mr. Obey, that is his idea, and he was speaking for himself and his considerable reputation he enjoys in the Congress," Pelosi said. "I'm not in support of the proposal of Mr. Obey."
Obey's graduated-tax proposal would add an additional 1 percent to the tax bills of low-income Americans and 5 percent to those of the wealthiest. It has received public support from other powerful House Democrats, including Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) and Jack Murtha (D-Penn.), who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) recently said he'd support a new tax on the wealthiest Americans to cover the costs of escalation, but that's an even tougher sell in the Senate.
Pelosi said last week that her caucus is concerned about the increasing cost of the Afghan campaign, but she argued Thursday that it's still too early to talk about whether the nation can afford Obama's escalation proposal. "When the president makes a request, we'll make a judgment about what support it has," and budget restrictions will be a factor, she said.
The Speaker sought to portray as hypocrites Republicans who criticize Democrats on fiscal responsibility. Looking forward to the midterm elections in November, she said she expects Afghanistan to have little impact on the electorate compared to other issues such as the ongoing economic crisis.
"I believe that the Democratic base, as well as the Republican base and the independent base, is interested in jobs, jobs, jobs," she said. "That really is what we're all focused on."
Of course, as Pelosi said last week, every dollar spent on the war is one not spent on jobs or economic recovery in America.
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