Antiwar Democrats have a rare opportunity to knock down a war funding bill, just days after Wikileaks released more than 90,000 documents confirming their worst fears about the direction of the conflict.
The House is bringing the bill up under a suspension of the rules, which require a two-thirds vote. Only 144 votes would be needed to to stop the war funding. The vote is expected to occur mid-afternoon. [UPDATE: So much for that. Only 102 Democrats joined a dozen Republicans and the war money passed, 308-114.]
The most recent vote on war money came July 1 and included an amendment to create a timetable for withdrawal. That measure drew 162 votes of support. A tougher amendment -- to fund the occupation only for the purpose of withdrawing -- garnered but a hundred votes.
The new House vote is required because the administration threatened to veto the House bill since it rescinded a small amount of education money for one program in order to offset other spending on education, police, firefighters and other state employees. The program that was cut was a pet project of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey told the Fiscal Times that the administration had recommended cutting food stamps instead.
Duncan's victory is a Pyrrhic one, as his strident objections led to all of the education funds being taken out, which will lead to tens of thousands of teacher layoffs. Duncan was objecting to the loss of $800 million in unspent funds that had been dedicated to his "Race to the Top" reform. Instead, he lost the entire $15 billion. Obey said today he will oppose the stripped-down bill.
The bill includes unpaid-for war money and some funds for aid to Gulf states, Haiti and veterans. But much was taken out.
"Once again, war is being paid for with a credit card while investments in our children's future are tossed aside. These investments -- $10 billion for teacher jobs, $1 billion for summer youth employment, $5 billion for Pell grants, $701 million for border security -- were cut from the war funding bill coming to the House floor despite being fully paid for and not adding to the budget deficit," wrote a group of progressive House Democrats Tuesday, announcing their intention to oppose the bill. "They have been jettisoned in favor of further borrowed war spending. Today's bill doesn't include anything to maintain first responder, police or firefighter positions despite the dramatic need for those jobs in every community in America. We believe this is fiscal insanity and a moral tragedy."
The White House veto threat, combined with a GOP filibuster, was enough to defeat the funding bill in the Senate. On July 22nd, the Senate sent the stripped-down war funding bill back to the House, leading to Tuesday's showdown. Nine years into the war, the Senate approved funding on a voice vote.
"Stop cramming our wealth into the gullet of the military-industrial complex. No more money for the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds. No more money for the Tajiks, the Hazaras and the Pushtuns. Charity begins at home," wrote Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) in a letter to supporters.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), in a briefing with reporters Tuesday, pinned the blame on the GOP for cutting social spending and insisted the troops on the field must be given the resources they need. "We very much regret that the Republicans again put our efforts at making sure 140,000 teachers aren't laid off -- the Republicans opposed that. There were a number of other items [in the war bill] including Build America Bonds, infrastructure growth of jobs that the Republicans opposed, and so the supplemental was sent back to us as exactly the same thing the Senate sent us, which we thought was incomplete," he said.
"The supplemental deals with funding those troops that we have in the field now. Those troops are there; they've been deployed by us; they've been given a mission. That mission has been, I think the president of the United States made it a mission that is a doable mission and is a mission that the military and the civilian leadership of the military -- the commander in chief -- agree with. And they're pursuing it. Now, we may want to reconsider that in Congress. The administration may want to reconsider it. There may be further debate about it but the fact is those troops are there now and money to fund those troops -- we're told by the Pentagon -- will be depleted as of the 7th of August, so that whatever we decide on policy in the longer term does not in my opinion affect our obligation today to make sure that the troops, as long as they're there, have the resources they need. So I think that the policy issue is one thig, the reality of the troops on the group and the support that they need, the resources they need, is an immediate demand. Until we bring them home, they need that money."