Today the House voted on a slew of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill authorizing hundreds of billions of dollars for the Pentagon and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal year 2012. This provided a great opportunity for our allies in Congress to work to impact key issues like military spending, the wars in Afghanistan and Libya, nuclear weapons and more.
The biggest story out the House today is the growth in support for ending the war in Afghanistan. Efforts to end the war in Afghanistan got more votes than ever before, and key members of the Democratic leadership Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer spoke in favor of the McGovern/Jones amendment to set a timeline for withdrawal. This sends a clear message to the administration at a critical time. The Pentagon is pushing for an insignificant withdrawal in July, and President Obama needs strong support to move toward a serious, sizable withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan amendments voted on were:
- The McGovern/Jones amendment, which would have required the president to develop an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan with a clear end date and report back to Congress. While this amendment just missed the number of votes needed for passage, this is the strongest showing yet, with 42 more votes than a similar amendment received last year. All but 8 Democrats supported it and 26 Republicans voted in favor. Failed, 204-215.
- The Chaffetz/Welch amendment called for withdrawing all US ground troops from Afghanistan except for a small number for targeted counterterrorism operations. The Secretary of Defense would have been required to report on the withdrawal plan to Congress in 60 days. Both of these amendments had lead sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Failed, 123-294.
US military involvement beyond Afghanistan came up as well:
- Freshman Republican Rep. Justin Amash joined with a bipartisan group to offer an amendment to strike a section of the bill that would have greatly expanded the administration’s authorization to use military force against terrorists. Republicans added this language in committee, despite the fact that the administration didn’t even want expanded authorization. It’s not surprising that the amendment failed in the Republican House, but the Senate is unlikely to support the language, and we will work to keep it out of the final version of the bill. Failed, 187-234.
- Rep. John Conyers offered an amendment prohibiting ground troops in Libya, which passed overwhelmingly. Passed, 416-5.
There were also several attempts to cut unnecessary military spending:
- Rep. Jared Polis offered an amendment to reduce US troop levels in Europe by 30,000 this year and an additional 10,000 each year for the next five years. Failed, 96-323.
- Rep. Lynn Woolsey tried to cut $2.6 billion for buying V-22 Osprey aircraft, an aircraft Time magazine called “a flying shame” and noted was so bad that even Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. Failed, 83-334.
- Rep. Jan Schakowsky offered an amendment that would have frozen Pentagon spending at current levels until the Pentagon could successfully pass an audit. Failed by voice vote.
- Rep. Loretta Sanchez tried to cut $100 million for missile defense that had been added by Republicans in the Armed Services Committee. Failed, 184-234.
Nuclear weapons issues also came up in some amendments that were adopted by voice votes. Rep. Sanchez offered successful amendments to require a report on Russia’s nuclear forces and New START and to increase funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs.
Thank you to all of you who participated in the national call-in day to tell your representatives to vote in favor of these amendments to end the war. With the July decision coming up, we need to keep the pressure on, so please take a moment to tell Congress why you want to end the war, and we’ll send your message along with a toy soldier to DC.