Congress: Is Opposition To War Spending Growing?

A debate is looming on Afghanistan war spending. A small number of Senators are raising concerns with the cost while others are opposed to the President’s war policy.

The President asked Congress for $33 billion for an additional 30,000 troops for Afghanistan. That request has since been inflated to include $2.8 billion for Haiti, $5.1 billion for national disasters and $13.4 billion for Vietnam-era disabled veterans suffering from Agent Orange.

Despite a pledge by President Obama to stop seeking war money through the supplemental process, another one has appeared before Congress.

Because the spending request is considered an emergency, it is outside the normal budget process, therefore borrowed on the country’s credit card to be paid back later.

President Obama is continuing the tradition. It is how most of the $1 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been supplied.

According to a letter President Obama sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in April, 2009, “Since September 2001, the Congress has passed 17 separate emergency funding bills totaling $822.1.”

Fiscal hawk, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla), said he would block the funding request until other budget cuts are approved.

“By definition, emergency spending must be unforeseen. The last day war funding was unforeseen was September 10, 2001. Yet, for the past nine years both parties have enabled the other’s desire to avoid hard choices,” Coburn said in a statement.

While fiscal conservatives have been objecting to spending for the stimulus and health care, they usually support war. Senator Coburn’s objection is the first from a Republican in the Senate. In the House, Republicans Ron Paul (Tex.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) have long opposed the wars and war spending.

Tom Andrews is a former member of Congress from Maine and current President of the Win Without War Coalition. He said “it’s incredible” that another supplemental has come down the pipeline. “Another year anther supplemental,” Andrews said.

Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Daniel Inouye, defends the bill as “both austere and responsible.”

Meanwhile, liberal Democrats have often opposed war funding citing their objection to the wars.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that it would be difficult to find the votes to pass the war funding bill.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) proposed that the President submit a concrete time line for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The President has outlined a troop withdrawal to being in July in 2011, but the pace could be slow and prolonged.

It is unclear if Senator Feingold will receive a vote on his measure.

Looking ahead, lawmakers are targeting the future cost of the war. The  President’s 2011 war request is tucked into the budget, the first time since the wars began.

The war budget combined with the regular Defense budget brings the FY2011 military request to $708 billion – $549 billion for the Defense Department and $159 billion for the wars.   Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) called attention to the amount.  Grayson called on President Obama to pay for the wars within the gigantic defense budget.

Grayson said, “$549 billion is plenty, particularly when we are using a Chinese credit card to pay for it all.”

Grayson’s proposal would use the $159 billion savings to excuse the first $35,000 of income from taxes.

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