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Pelosi: Obama on his own in selling Afghan troop build-up

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Harry Hamburg/Associated Press)

By Paul Kane
President Obama will have to make the case himself to the Democratic caucus for votes next year to support his planned surge of an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday, adding that she was finished asking her colleagues to support wars that they did not support.

"The president's going to have to make his case," Pelosi told reporters at a year-end briefing on the legislative session.

While the war funding legislation is not likely to be considered until later in the spring, Pelosi said there would be an early test vote on support for the troop build-up early next year. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said he will offer a privileged resolution next month calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, a resolution that must considered within three weeks of Kucinich introducing it. The vote is likely to fail because of broad Republican support for the war, but it could reveal just how deep the schism is between Obama and his fellow Democrats on the new troop plan.

The last legislative war effort came in June, when Republicans balked at the supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because Obama asked Democrats to attach funding for the IMF onto the must-pass legislation. Most GOP lawmakers opposed the IMF funding as a "global bailout". With just five Republicans voting for the war measure, Pelosi had to beg Democratic colleagues who had long opposed the war efforts to support the legislation and promised not to "ever ask them to vote for it" again.

Pelosi told reporters Wednesday she intends to live up to that vow on the pending supplemental bill, which will provide anywhere from $30 billion to $40 billion for the additional 30,000 troops.

"We have to do this for the new president," Pelosi said Wednesday, recounting her conversation with Democrats in June. "Then he will come up with a plan and then it's up to him to ask you for your support. What I've told the members is to give the president room, to listen to what he has to say, that we will we provide the briefings and they will have the information. But I can't -- this, for members, is a vote of conscience. War votes are votes of conscience."

Once the full 30,000 troops are in place, the total number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan will top 100,000, roughly tripling the amount that were there a year ago. This large increase in Afghanistan, as Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have slowly begun to wind down the war effort in Iraq, has left many Democrats disillusioned because during the 2008 campaign they perceived Obama to be more of a dove than the hawkish president he has turned out to be.

Some anti-war liberals in the House and Senate have demanded consideration of the war supplemental early next year so they can be on the record opposing the surge before most of the new troops are sent, likely in March. But Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), head of the Pentagon subcommittee that will first consider the supplemental, has conceded that, while a majority of Democrats oppose the surge, there won't be enough votes to defund the effort. Instead, he plans to slowly consider the war supplemental and place as many benchmarks for success in the legislation throughout the spring.

For now, Pelosi said she is hoping the vote on the Kucinich resolution, by late January, will meet those demands from the anti-war wing of her caucus. "There are many members in the caucus who are eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan. This may satisfy that need. We shall see," she said.

Asked how she will vote on the Kucinich resolution, Pelosi declined to answer.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 16, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Funny that Pelosi backed all of the Bush policies when he and Cheney had their guns in her face. Now she can't do it for the weak guy. Maybe he deserves the backstab anyway. After beating Hilary and replacing Bush, he put all the Clintonites in office and started implementing Bush's policies. It's clear that Obama makes a great student council president but has absolutely no backbone or muscle when it comes to governing.

Posted by: bdesilets | December 17, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

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