As expected, President Bush has asked Congress for an additional $46 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing his total request for fiscal year ‘08 to $196 billion. He insisted that they approve the funding before the end of the year, though Democrats are currently saying they will ignore that demand and continue with their plan to address the funding at the beginning of next year. If Congress approves the request, it would bring the total funding to over $800 billion. President Bush once again equated approval of the request with supporting the troops:
"Our men and women on the front lines should not be caught in the middle of partisan disagreements in Washington, D.C.," Bush said at the White House, flanked by veterans and the family of a slain Marine. "I often hear that war critics oppose my decisions, but still support the troops. Well, I’ll take them at their word — and this is the chance to show it."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) derided the war funding bill as an example of "misplaced priorities," pointing to Bush’s veto of a five-year, $35 billion expansion of a children’s health program. "For the cost of less than 40 days in Iraq, we could provide health-care coverage to 10 million children for an entire year," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) echoed that line of attack on Bush. "He repeatedly says no to health care, no to law enforcement, no to homeland security, no to stronger infrastructure," Reid said at a news conference. "But he says yes to this intractable civil war in Iraq, which is being paid for by borrowed money."
We will need to keep up intense pressure to ensure that the Democratic leadership stays on the offensive and does not cave as they did earlier this year. Despite overwhelming public opposition to the war, and recent poll numbers showing that the majority of Americans oppose approving Bush’s full funding request, many opponents of the war have not been able to effectively respond to the accusation of not “supporting the troops.” Accepting that funding a failed military policy relates to supporting the troops on the ground, members of Congress end up constantly on the defensive and unwilling to take a stand.
In our direct lobbying efforts, Peace Action West has been pushing members of Congress to redefine supporting our troops to mean protecting them during a fully-funded withdrawal, providing for them when they return, and working to stabilize Iraq through reconstruction and regional diplomacy. It is irresponsible to acknowledge that a military solution is failing but to continue to throw tax dollars at that policy for fear of being labeled “unpatriotic.” Ninety members of the House have now signed a letter stating they will only support funding for a withdrawal of US troops. There will probably be multiple proposals on the table for how to deal with the funding request. We will keep you updated with actions you can take as we get closer to a vote on the supplemental.
(graphic courtesy of the Washington Post)