By David Swanson
At 5 p.m. this evening, the House Appropriations Committee will begin marking up a bill to spend another $33.5 billion on escalating the war in Afghanistan. Various useful projects will be packaged into the bill in order to provide congress members with assorted lame excuses for voting yes.
Among those speaking and voting against the war funding in committee will be Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who just told me that her thinking is as follows: “Since Congress last authorized and appropriated funds to increase our military engagement in this near decade long war, instances of civilian casualties have more than doubled compared to last year and there is still no end in sight to this conflict.”
Lee said that she will continue “calling for a separate supplemental on military spending so that Members can have a true up or down vote on this issue without it being conflated with issues like education spending or relief for Haiti.”
Lee also made clear one way that she can make this happen: “I will be bringing an amendment before the Rules Committee that would prohibit any increase in troop levels in Afghanistan.” In other words, Lee will be asking for the Rules Commitee, on which she does not serve, to allow a floor vote in June on this amendment.
By all accounts, such a decision belongs to one person alone, Nancy Pelosi. While Pelosi has said she won’t push congress members to vote for the escalation funding, she has never said she wouldn’t package it together with pleasanter items. She can be expected, I think, to leave out anything so pleasant (such as money for schools) that would cause Republicans to vote against the war escalation funds. And as long as she has most of the Republican votes, she can comfortably allow dozens of Democrats to vote No. That goes, as well, for any clean vote she allows on the escalation. Yet she may not want to put such a vote on record, if she doesn’t have to, and if she doesn’t intend to pass education funding with Democratic backing while passing the war funding with Republicans.
The real question is whether any congress members will organize a serious caucus of those committed to voting No regardless of what lipstick is attached to the pig. We’ll have the first week of June, while they’re home, to do it for them.