U.S. House stalls war Funding Bill - Pentagon theatens layoffs
On Thursday in the U.S. House in unlikely coalition between Democrats (via a sit out of vote) and Republicans voted against continued funding of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The defeat of the funding measure came on a 149-141 tally. (132 Republicans sat out the vote in protest)
Followed by Democrats forcing through a nonbinding plan seeking an exit from Iraq by December of next year. In a vote of 227 to 196 - broke mostly along party lines.
Thirty-two Republicans joined Democrats on a 256-166 vote to sharply boost education benefits for Iraq-Afghanistan veterans under the GI Bill — despite an accompanying tax surcharge on the wealthy and small businesses — and voted to provide a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits.
"It was a political scheme. We wanted to expose it, and we did," declared House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
Democrats saw it differently. "Republicans had the choice -- fund the troops or don't fund the troops. They voted present," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.).
The surprise action left antiwar activists on and off Capitol Hill exultant, Republicans gloating and Democratic leaders baffled. Recriminations from all sides quickly followed. An odd coalition of angry Republicans and antiwar Democrats Thursday torpedoed a $162.5 billion proposal to continue funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving the House to pass a measure that demands troop withdrawals, bans torture and expands education benefits for returning veterans.
On Friday the Pentagon warns of layoffs of civilian military employees, and this round of debate is no different. The layoff warning is similar to a threat last year when Congress was debating the last major Iraq funding bill. There were no layoffs, and the Democratic Congress eventually caved in on troop withdrawal timetables and gave the Pentagon the war money with no strings attached. That is likely to happen again in the coming month, and layoffs will be averted.