Congress overcomes opposition, approves war funding

CONGRESS OVERCOMES OPPOSITION, APPROVES WAR FUNDING…. The House approved a spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but included $23 billion in additional domestic funding — including $10 billion in aid to states, intended to save thousands of teachers’ jobs. The Senate rejected that version, passed a stripped-down $59 billion package that funded the wars and nothing else, and offered the House a take-it-or-leave-it message

Late yesterday, the House took it, but it wasn’t easy. In particular, many liberal Dems had plenty of reasons to balk — opposition to the wars, dissatisfaction over the scrubbed domestic spending, and revelations surrounding the WikiLeaks materials — and opposed the spending measure in fairly large numbers.

The House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $59 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy could work.

Here’s the roll call. A majority of Dems and a majority of Republicans supported the funding, but 102 Democrats joined 12 Republicans in opposition. The number of House Dems voting against the midyear war spending nearly tripled from a year ago, which underscores the growing opposition.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the $59 billion for the wars isn’t paid for, and will be added to the deficit as emergency spending. There was some talk among Republicans in May about trying to pay for the funding — a step they never even considered between 2002 and 2008 — but that was never seriously pursued.

With that in mind, reader M.R. raised a good point via email:

Here’s something to ponder as the debate over the Bush tax cuts: although there is no action required to cause tax rates to reset to earlier values, I wonder if the Dems could get some political benefit by tying their inaction on renewing the top cuts to the two wars. That is, we need to let the tax rates return to earlier values to pay for our two wars.

That strikes me as a very sound approach. Wars are expensive, and throughout American history, taxes have gone up to pay for conflicts. Lincoln raised taxes to pay for the Civil War. McKinley raised taxes to finance the Spanish-American War. Wilson raised the top income tax rate to 77% to afford WWI. Taxes were raised, multiple times, to help the nation pay for WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Even the first President Bush raised taxes after the first war with Iraq.

This year, taxes are scheduled to return to earlier levels anyway. If Dems let that happen, they can help pay for the war spending Republicans support.