Even through a burgeoning sense of doubt in Congress following the WikiLeaks revelations, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill providing $59 billion in additional funding for President Barack Obama’s war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The bill, which will now be sent to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law, passed in the House on Tuesday by a 308-114 margin. While 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans voted ‘aye’, 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted ‘nay’.
Growing Democratic opposition to the bill followed closely from the release by the WikiLeaks website, of over 90,000 military documents shedding light upon numerous failings in the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
Seeking to rally his party’s members in the House around the financing bill, President Obama said before the vote, that he “urged the House leaders to pass the necessary funding to support our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know much has been written about this in recent days as a result of the substantial leak of documents from Afghanistan covering a period from 2004 to 2009”.
Mr. Obama further said, “The fact is these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan; indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.”
He added it was the lack of an adequate response to such challenges that his administration had “substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work, and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan”. Now the U.S. had to see that strategy through, he argued.
Reflecting the mixed cross-party patterns of support for the bill, the House Republicans said in an official statement, “Now is not the time to back away from our mission in Afghanistan — a mission which the President has committed more than 50,000 new troops since he was inaugurated.” They added that for the last six months they had called for the swift passage of a “clean” troop funding bill, and one that U.S. civilian and military leaders were reported to have said was urgently needed.
The House Republicans also criticised Democrats who had opposed the bill’s passage, pointing out that Representative Jim McGovern had said, “We need to rethink this strategy and it must include an exit strategy. There is no end!” and Representative David Obey who was said to have indicated that he would oppose the troop funding measure, even though he was bringing it to the floor.
Strong words for Obama
However the Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, also had strong words for President Obama, as they said, “Unfortunately, to date the President has spent little time making the case for the country’s engagement in the region.” They criticised Democrats in Congress further, noting that they had struggled to fund deployed troops and civilian personnel, spending more than six months delaying a critical troop funding measure “in a futile effort to lard it up with more ‘stimulus’ spending”.