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Speaker Vows to Pass Supplemental Before Recess

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she remains committed to passing an emergency war supplemental before the July Fourth recess, despite a plea from liberals to delay a vote on the measure until “serious questions and concerns” about the war in Afghanistan that were raised in an explosive Rolling Stone article have been addressed.

“I believe it would be important for us to pass it before the Fourth of July break,” the California Democrat told reporters Thursday, the same day 25 Democrats and five Republicans wrote Pelosi asking her to delay floor consideration of the supplemental.

Comments that Gen. Stanley McChrystal and members of his staff made about President Barack Obama, his foreign policy team and the military effort in Afghanistan in the article — on newsstands Friday — directly prompted McChrystal’s resignation Wednesday as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The letter, organized by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), quotes excerpts from the article that its authors deem concerning, including an assertion that Obama will not begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 but instead will ramp up counterinsurgency efforts. The lawmakers also note that a senior military official stationed in Afghanistan is quoted as suggesting Obama could ask for a second troop surge next summer and that McChrystal’s chief of operations — Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville — is quoted as saying the war in Afghanistan is “not going to look like a win, smell like a win, or taste like a win” but rather would “end in an argument.”

“These comments raise serious questions about the war, those responsible for prosecuting the war, and the prospect that withdrawal of U.S. forces will begin next July as the president has assured us,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that action on the supplemental should be delayed until those questions are “fully addressed.”

But Pelosi indicated she still plans to try to move forward next week on the supplemental, the roughly $33 billion war portion of which would fund Obama’s plans to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. The Speaker noted that liberals in her Caucus already opposed the war money and said she did not think the change in command altered the dynamics of the supplemental vote.

“So far, I haven’t seen any indication that that has any impact on the vote,” Pelosi said. “There’s unease in our Caucus … about the situation Afghanistan. I don’t think that the change in command affects that. The president is the commander in chief. We will stand by him and his decision that he made in terms of who would be in command in Afghanistan. So, we trusted him before. We trust him now, and it’s just a question of where people stand on our involvement in Afghanistan.”

Pelosi said it was “possible” that Democratic leaders would grant a request from the Congressional Progressive Caucus to bifurcate the vote so that liberals can oppose the war funding but still vote for domestic items. But she stopped short of committing to two votes. Democratic leaders have been talking with Republicans in recent days to try to determine whether there would be enough support from across the aisle to pass the war funding on its own.

Pelosi declined to comment on what domestic items — such as money to stem teacher layoffs — would be in the supplemental, saying Democratic leaders “continue to meet on that subject.”

“Some of it depends on what can pass in the Senate,” she said.

Testifying at a Senate hearing last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was increasingly concerned about the House’s inaction on the supplemental and said the military would have to begin planning to curtail defense operations if the measure is not enacted by July 4.

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