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House Republicans Block War Funds

Republicans this afternoon pulled off an ambush on Democrats on the House floor, helping to vote down a $160-billion plus measure for military operations in Afghanistan.

The GOP has grown increasingly angry in recent weeks over the procedures the majority has used to bring the supplemental package to the floor. The measure has been split into three parts, and the first part -- which consists solely of war funds -- lost 141-149, with 133 132 Republicans voting "present." Republicans knew that Democrats were divided on the money, with some antiwar members voting against it, so they decided not to help the majority get the bill passed.

The House has now moved on to the other two parts of the package, one containing troop withdrawal language and one containing educational benefits for veterans but it is unclear if anything will actually be sent over to the Senate if the House can't pass the military funding, the whole purpose of doing the supplemental in the first place.

UPDATE: 5 PM EST: The House has now approved the last two parts of the supplemental package. Those elements -- the troop withdrawal language and the veterans' college benefits, coupled with a new tax on millionaires -- will now go to the Senate without the war funding. But the Senate is expected to included money for Iraq and Afghanistan in whatever it passes, and then the two chambers will go to conference. President Bush has vowed to veto a bill that exceeds his request or includes any extraneous domestic funding.

At a press conference following the votes, Republicans said they voted "present" on the war funding in order to prevent Democrats from using the minority to pass war money that the bulk of the majority party doesn't actually support (147 Democrats voted against the military funding, while 85 voted for it). And Republicans said they needed to take a stand after being completely shut out of the legislative process.

"It was a process the likes of which we've never seen," complained Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), the top Republican on the Rules Committee, calling the procedure "outrageous, atrocious and unprecedented."

Republican leaders expressed confidence that they would not be damaged by headlines suggesting they were at fault for scuttling war funding. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the Democrats three-part package "a cynical scheme to deny our troops in Afghanistan the resources they need for success," because Democrats knew their package was headed for a veto.

But Democrats made clear where they thought the blame would lie for the day's events. "Republicans chose to continue to play political games," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), suggesting that American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would have a hard time understanding that the GOP's complaints about process might delay money for their activities.

The second part of the Democrats' package, an amendment calling for withdrawal of troops to begin within 30 days and for Congress to approve any status of forces of agreement with the Iraqi government, passed by a narrow margin, 227-196, almost completely along party lines. The veterans' benefits piece of the measure was approved more comfortably, 256-166, with 32 Republicans joining nearly every Democrat in voting "aye."

By Ben Pershing  |  May 15, 2008; 3:55 PM ET
Categories:  Iraq  
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