Published December 18, 2009
President Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan is expected to face its first test vote in the House early next year, when Rep. Dennis Kucinich brings to the floor a resolution demanding U.S. forces be withdrawn.
Although the measure is likely to fail, given widespread GOP support for the president's surge strategy, it would give the Obama administration a clear sense of where his own party stands on the escalation of the Afghanistan war -- particularly in an election year.
Anti-war Democrats like Kucinich have rebelled against the president's war plan, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she's not going to go to bat for Obama on this issue.
"The president is going to have to make his case," she said, adding that she will not tell members how to vote once the funding bill for the troop increase makes its way to the floor. "This, for members, is a vote of conscience. War votes are votes of conscience, and of their constituents."
She said Kucinich's resolution will probably be the first actual vote on Afghanistan. She gave no indication that she would try to stall that effort, which would call for withdrawing troops starting within 30 days of passage.
"There are many members in the caucus eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan," Pelosi said. "This may satisfy that need. ... There is an interest on the part of many members to have a vote on that."
Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, wrote in a letter to colleagues last week that his proposals would call for a timeline for "timely withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
"As President Obama prepares to escalate military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must reassert our Constitutional prerogative as it relates to war," he wrote.
Public support for Obama's war handling has increased since he announced his decision to send 30,000 troops following a three-month deliberative process. A recent Fox News poll found 49 percent of Americans approved of the job he's doing, compared with 41 percent approval in mid-October.
But Democrats on the Hill have expressed concerns about the possibility that the United States will get bogged down in Afghanistan.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., circulated a letter to colleagues this month seeking members for a new "Peace and Progress in Afghanistan Caucus." One of the tenets of the group would be the "swift redeployment of the U.S. military" from the war zone.
"All in all, this will put the annual cost of the war in Afghanistan alone at $80 billion per year," Conyers wrote of Obama's new strategy. "The Peace and Progress in Afghanistan Caucus will serve as an informal bipartisan group of members dedicated to reorienting the United States' commitment to the Afghan government and people by emphasizing indigenous reconciliation and reconstruction strategies, rigorous regional diplomacy, and swift redeployment of the U.S. military."