Obama, Progressive Democrats to Talk War Funding
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Only days after he repeated his opposition to a "truth commission" to investigate alleged abuses by the Bush administration in fighting terrorism, President Obama will meet with a group of House Democrats who have strongly disagreed with his stance.
The 77-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a block of the most liberal House Democrats, will hold its first meeting with the president this afternoon in a session could illustrate some of the divides between Obama and some of the more liberal members of the party on a number of issues.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and other members of the Progressive Caucus have repeated said they favor a formal investigation into Bush administration interrogation policies. And several members, including Conyers, have lambasted Obama's proposal to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 17,000.
Congress will vote next month on Obama's $83 billion funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some members of the Progressive Caucus have hinted they won't support that proposal unless Obama lays out a more rapid timeline for the eventual removal of troops from both countries.
The issues of torture and the war funding have the potential to seriously divide the coalition that carried Obama into the presidency by inflaming the president's most liberal supporters.
Liberals who admired Obama's staunch opposition to the war in Iraq are alarmed by his call for a major increase in Afghanistan. House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) has told top Obama aides that the president's Afghanistan-Pakistan policy has the potential to "devour" Obama's presidency.
On health care, members of the caucus are demanding that any health insurance proposal considered by Congress include a so-called public plan which would give Americans not only a choice between health insurance provided through various private companies but also a Medicare-like plan operated by the government. Republicans strongly oppose this idea, and Obama has not said if he would insist on a public plan as part of health insurance legislation.
"We have polled CPC Members and a strong majority will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported on a level playing field with private health insurance plans," CPC leaders Lynn Woolsey (D-Cal.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said
in a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month.
Posted at 11:51 AM ET on Apr 28, 2009
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