The first full debate on ending the war in Afghanistan since it began in 2001 ended with Congress voting overwhelmingly to keep the war going.
Lawmakers voted 65-356 to defeat a measure calling for an immediate withdrawal from the region, with 189 Democrats joining 167 Republicans to sink it. Five Republicans voted with 60 Democrats to call for an immediate end to the war.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-Ohio) resolution was never expected to pass, but it did give the White House an early view of support for the surge within Democratic ranks. The vote helps clear the way for a looming war supplemental spending bill that Congress will take up this spring.
The debate, meanwhile, brought fiery speeches from liberals and conservatives alike. Kucinich and other liberals argued the mission had gone on far too long and was draining money from the Treasury that could be going to rebuilding America and helping the economy.
Republican leaders ripped the resolution as hurting the troops and their mission. And Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who called President Barack Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan his only success to date, questioned why Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) allowed a floor debate on the issue.
Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), however, defended the debate as part of Congress’ constitutional duty — regardless of which side Members are on.
Retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) ripped the strategy in Afghanistan as unnecessary, and Members for saying that they don’t want to go to a funeral and tell a mother that her son died in vain.
“So what is it, we’re going to double down on a bad policy in order to protect the honor of those who have died? I don’t think so.”
Kennedy also ripped the press corps as “despicable” for covering former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) “24-7” but not reporting the debate on Afghanistan.