As I wrote yesterday, the Afghanistan war funding bill continues to get loaded up with popular and much-needed funding for programs like Haiti relief and oil spill cleanup. This creates a difficult dilemma for members of Congress who oppose the war but support these programs, especially as Republicans are threatening to vote against the package because of their opposition to the additional non-war funding. We saw this play out last year, when the White House and congressional leadership twisted arms to get antiwar Democrats to switch their no votes after Republicans defected en masse.
There are now reports that the congressional leadership is considering splitting the package into two votes—one for the war funding and one for the other provisions. This would allow members to vote their consciences on the war and demonstrate growing opposition to the current strategy in Afghanistan, while allowing the important funding for other programs to pass on its own merits.
To ensure that the split happens, we have been mobilizing our supporters in Speaker Pelosi’s district to call and email her office encouraging her leadership on splitting the funding. We also sent the below letter to her staff in San Francisco and Washington, DC.
On behalf of Peace Action West’s 50,000 supporters, I am writing to urge Speaker Pelosi to hold a separate vote on the $33 billion portion of the upcoming supplemental bill that directly funds the escalation in Afghanistan.
As Speaker Pelosi has correctly noted, voting on whether to continue a war is a vote of conscience. By combining funding for the escalation in Afghanistan with needed programs like Haiti relief and staving off teacher layoffs, members of Congress who oppose intensifying the military strategy in Afghanistan are put in a difficult position of voting in favor of funding for a war that they believe is strategically and morally wrong. Splitting the funding bill into two votes would allow a clean vote for those representatives who want to register their opposition to the strategy as well as passage of the needed funding in the other parts of the bill.
After more than eight years of war in Afghanistan, our supporters (and many other Americans) have serious questions about what our billions of tax dollars are funding in Afghanistan. Casualty rates are increasing for both American troops and Afghan civilians. Civilians are fleeing Marja because they do not feel protected, even after an intensive American effort to secure the area. Meanwhile, we have seen terrorist threats to the US thwarted through smart intelligence work and policing. Rather than throwing more money at a failing strategy, our supporters want to see investment in a smarter and more cost effective approach based on diplomacy, effective development, and targeted civilian counterterrorism efforts. These people deserve to have their voices represented in Congress with a clean vote on the $33 billion war funding portion of the bill.
We appreciate Speaker Pelosi’s skeptical statements about the escalation in Afghanistan and her commitment to refrain from pressuring Democrats to vote in favor of war funding. We strongly encourage her to use her position as Speaker of the House to ensure that the voices of the American people who want to see a better approach in Afghanistan are heard through a clean vote on the war funding.
If you live in San Francisco, click here to tell Speaker Pelosi you want her to make sure there is a clean up or down vote on funding for the war. (Note: if you do not live in her district, your message will go to your own representative).