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Supplemental Battle Begins

Obama Gives War Spending New Appeal

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) on Monday outlined a $94 billion war spending bill — $9 billion more than President Barack Obama has requested — without a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq or binding restrictions on the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obey also refused to provide $80 million for closing the detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying the plans for doing so are not yet ready. And he did not give Obama the authority to invest $100 billion in the International Monetary Fund.

The supplemental blueprint, which was endorsed Monday afternoon by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) through a spokesman, could present Democratic liberals with a quandary.

Many left-leaning Members had signed letters in previous years refusing to support any more funding for Iraq unless a timeline for withdrawal was included, and many have expressed concern both at the lack of binding benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the emphasis on military spending over economic and humanitarian aid.

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have already said they plan to vote against the spending bill, although they are uncertain how many more in the liberal bloc will join them, noting that many liberals also want to support Obama.

Pelosi and Obey repeatedly voted against war supplementals when George W. Bush was president because of the lack of timelines for withdrawal.

Obey said he wanted to give Obama a year to show what he can do on the war front just as he gave President Richard Nixon a year to start getting out of Vietnam.

“If I gave Richard Nixon a year to show what he could do, I certainly don’t see why I wouldn’t give Barack Obama a year,— Obey said.

Pelosi also will support the bill despite the lack of redeployment timelines.

“What you see in this legislation is the continuation of the president’s announced policy to withdraw our troops from Iraq and end the war there,— Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. Elshami added that Pelosi shares Obama’s goal of closing Guantánamo, “and we will work with him on the policy to achieve that goal.—

But Obey said he has serious doubts about the possibility for success in stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said he would require Obama to submit a report to Congress prior to his fiscal 2011 budget that outlines how the two nations’ governments are performing.

Obama recently outlined a plan to increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, an area that Democrats felt the Bush administration had ignored.

Obey said he wants Obama’s report to be a “fish-or-cut-bait— assessment.

Obey also showed open contempt for the just-adopted $3.4 trillion budget blueprint, which sliced Obama’s proposed appropriations request for 2010.

Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats had boasted that they had helped trim the overall spending number, but those cuts were largely wiped out by the extra spending in the emergency supplemental.

“With all due respect, flu bugs don’t take a look at the Budget Committee’s budget resolution, and neither do the Taliban,— Obey said.

The $94.2 billion supplemental bill includes $78.4 billion for the Department of Defense, which is $4.7 billion above Obama’s request. The bill adds $2.2 billion for C-17 transport planes, $904 million for C-130s, $2.2 billion for mine-resistant vehicles and $734 million in payments to troops hit by stop-loss orders retroactive to 2001.

Flu spending gets $2 billion, which is $550 million more than Obama sought, with $350 million going to state and local governments and $200 million for global efforts.

Another $400 million would go toward the drug war in Mexico.

The bill also includes international food aid, humanitarian assistance, United Nations peacekeeping operations money and HIV/AIDS funding.

Republicans, who may be needed in the House to carry the bill if progressive Democrats bolt, said Monday afternoon they were still going through it. However, GOP House leaders including Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) have expressed strong support for Obama’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, and the absence of the controversial Guantánamo funding could make the bill an easier sell to GOP Members who have been highly critical of Obama’s plan to close the facility.

Last week, Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said he had signed off on the Defense portion of the bill.

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