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Democratic Class of 2006 Faces Tough Vote on Afghanistan

Public pressure may be mounting on House Democrats to oppose a potential White House request to send more troops overseas, but that vote could prove difficult for the class of 2006, which came to Congress urging a fully funded war against terrorism in Afghanistan.Fractures on the issue are already showing among Democrats elected in 2006, a year of high anti-Iraq War sentiment. Out of 47 who signed a May 2008 letter urging top appropriators to scale back funding for Iraq and “fully fund the war against terrorism in Afghanistan,— more than two dozen voted for a June 2009 amendment that would have required the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit strategy. The measure failed, 133-278, but it picked up a significant number of votes from sophomore Democrats. The “no confidence— vote on Afghanistan policy also comes at a time when a recent CNN poll found that just 23 percent of Democrats back the ongoing war.Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), the author of the 2008 letter to Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) urging more of their attention on Afghanistan, opposed the amendment seeking to restrict military leaders in their strategy.But others in his class were not as consistent in their positions on the issue: 28 backed the resolution, including Reps. Bruce Braley (Iowa), André Carson (Ind.), Kathy Castor (Fla.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Joe Courtney (Conn.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), John Hall (N.Y.), Phil Hare (Ill.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Paul Hodes (N.H.), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Steve Kagen (Wis.), Dave Loebsack (Iowa), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Laura Richardson (Calif.), John Sarbanes (Md.), Joe Sestak (Pa.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), Betty Sutton (Ohio), Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Peter Welch (Vt.), Charlie Wilson (Ohio) and John Yarmuth (Ky.). By contrast, Walz said in a June 2007 press release: “All too often, we forget that Afghanistan is the real front in the fight against Al Qaeda. If we fail to monitor this situation closely and offer appropriate assistance, we risk losing ground.—Among 2006 Democrats who appear more consistent in their positions and who opposed the recent amendment were Reps. Klein, Jason Altmire (Pa.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Pa.), Ciro Rodriguez (Texas), Christopher Carney (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Albio Sires (N.J.) and Zack Space (Ohio).

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