8 a.m. ET: Just as President Obama is seeking to unify Democrats behind his health-care proposals against a solid wall of GOP opposition, he may be forced to do the opposite if he decides to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Many Hill Democrats will back resources for training and supporting Afghan forces, but not for adding more U.S. troops. "The emerging Democratic consensus is likely to constrain the president as he considers how best to proceed with an increasingly unpopular war," The Washington Post writes, explaining that Obama "could be forced into the awkward political position of turning to congressional Republicans for support." The president's party is wary, with House Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 watching Obama closely on Afghanistan, Politico reports. They, like Obama, emphasized during their winning campaigns that they supported the war effort in Afghanistan even as they criticized the Bush administration's actions in Iraq. Now, those back-bench Democrats and their leaders and committee chairmen must decide whether they would be willing to publicly break with their new president on one of his first major military decisions.
Complicating the situation for Obama is the fact that some Republicans who would be inclined to support him on Afghanistan are growing concerned at the pace of his decision-making. “What we want to know right now is what the commander-in- chief says,” said Richard Lugar, Obama's closest foreign policy ally on the GOP side, according to Bloomberg. He added that he wanted Obama "to move on a little bit more decisively." Lugar's comments came after Jim Jones gave senators a classified briefing on the state of play in Afghanistan, during which he reportedly said Obama would make his troop decision in the coming weeks.
At the White House, Obama met for three hours Wednesday with his divided war cabinet, and appears set on convening the group again twice next week. The Wall Street Journal reports that Robert Gates -- "the key link between the White House and the military -- is among those undecided about the right approach." The story cites an unnamed senior defense official as saying Gates "now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan." Elsewhere in the Journal, Karl Rove writes on the "troubling revelation" that Obama has spoken to Stanley McChrystal only once since June and takes it as evidence that the president has "outsourced" the troop decision to advisers like Vice President Biden. "Mr. Biden has a record rare in its consistency and duration of being wrong about big national security questions," Rove says.
The Iranian foreign minister, meanwhile, arrived in Washington Wednesday for what the New York Times called a "curiously timed visit." Can Obama publicly chastise Iran for keeping a second nuclear plant secret one week, and then resume a policy of engagement the next week? In Geneva, "U.S. officials are skeptical that Tehran will act decisively when its diplomats sit down for long-awaited discussions with world powers," the Washington Post writes. Laura Rozen reports, "One diplomat said it was a concern that it could become a distraction that the Iranian foreign minister was coming to Washington one day before the Geneva talks, creating the impression that Washington and Iran may be exploring a separate bilateral channel." Iran's neighbors in the Middle East "are growing increasingly anxious" about the country's nuclear program, the New York Times reports. "But they are concerned not only with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran but also with the more immediate threat that Iran will destabilize the region if the West presses too hard."
While the public option dominated the health-care debate Tuesday, abortion was the main event Wednesday. Republicans failed in their effort to convince the Finance Committee to add tougher language preventing the use of federal subsidies to pay for abortions covered by private insurance plans. ""This is a health-care bill. This is not an abortion bill," Max Baucus said during committee deliberations, but that doesn't mean the issue won't raise its head again, either on the Senate floor or during Bart Stupak's separate negotiations with House Democratic leaders. After altering a provision of the Senate bill on tax deductions for medical expenses, Democrats now believe the finish line is in sight for their bill. Baucus suggested he has the votes to pass the measure out of committee and bring it before the Senate in the next two weeks. It won't include the public option, but Tom Carper is now floating a compromise proposal that would allow each state to decide whether to offer a public plan. Politico calls the idea "a so-called third way that several key senators said Wednesday could provide the blueprint for compromise in the Senate bill."
October 1, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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