House Approves $33 billion Afghanistan War supplemental

On Thursday, July 1, the House of Representatives approved an $80 billion supplemental appropriation including $33 billion to fund the escalation of the Afghanistan war.   100 representatives voted to fund only withdrawal of troops, and 162 voted to require an exit timeline.   The combined bill, HR.4899, passed the House on a 215-210 procedural vote and now goes back to the Senate.

The votes on the two war related amendments show continued political progress and strengthening of the antiwar caucus in the House. The withdrawal amendment was offered by Barbara Lee of California.   The 100 votes for it compare favorably to the 65 votes for the Kucinich resolution in March.   Of the 10 Massachusetts representatives, all voted for the Lee amendment except Lynch.

The exit timeline amendment was offered by Rep. Jim McGovern.   The 162 votes for it compare favorably to 131 for McGovern’s exit strategy amendment in June 2009, and the language was significantly stronger.   Breaking with the administration and signaling that Congressional leadership is calling for a review of Afghanistan war policy,  Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations chair Dave Obey were among those voting for the measure, along with all 10 Massachusetts representatives.

But in a confusing legislative move, the key vote on the war money was actually a vote on a so-called self-executing rule which brought the amendments to the floor.  With this rule, there was no final vote on the supplemental appropriation, making the rule the key money vote.  And on this vote, which was opposed by a united Republican caucus, only a small number of antiwar legislators voted no.

Lipstick on a PigThe peace movement demanded and received a separate vote on the pig without lipstick.  By doing so it showed that while it now influences  a clear majority of the Democratic caucus, it still lost that vote by nearly 2-1.  But on the key combined vote for pig and lipstick, the war issue took second place to the domestic funding in the minds of most progressive Democrats, and they passed the money.  The antiwar issue was pitted against the domestic funding issue, when they should have been connected.

In the next phase of the struggle, the peace movement must focus on connecting the antiwar issue with the domestic issues to form a single progressive agenda.    The peace movement standing alone cannot stop the war– but it stands a greater chance of doing so in coalition with labor and advocates of human needs.