As expected, the House passed a $690 billion defense bill for the 2012 fiscal year on Thursday, fully funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
More notably, a bill that would have required the Obama administration to set a definitive timeline on accelerating the transfer of military operations in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities was barely defeated. The closeness of the vote indicates that war fatigue is higher than ever among members of Congress and their constituents. Though it was defeated, the vote sends a strong signal that support for the Afghanistan war is dwindling in both parties, as 26 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. The Obama administration will need to take a significant step at its appointed troop reduction deadline in July, or risk facing a popular outcry.
Here is a transcript of Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) speech on the House floor, in which he argues that we need to “re-think our policy” on Afghanistan:
“Too many people have died in Afghanistan. Since January, I have attended three funerals in my district alone of young men who have sacrificed their lives there. Tens of thousands more have been wounded – and the suicide rate among our veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq is soaring. There is no clear mission. The Karzai government is corrupt. We continue to borrow money to pay for this war. We need to re-think what we’re doing in Afghanistan. It’s time to define the plan to bring our uniformed men and women home to their families and their communities.
This is the longest war in our nation’s history. It’s no longer about al-Qaeda. I’ve met with our troops in Afghanistan. I’ve met with them after they’ve come home. They’re incredible. Politicians put them into harm’s way. And we now have an obligation to get them safely home.
President Obama has promised a drawdown of U.S. troops in July. Now we hear that might just be a token drawdown. This amendment – and the vote on this amendment – can send the President a clear signal of support for a meaningful drawdown of troops. Help him do what the American people want him to do – Bring our troops home – and invest in America.
We need to safeguard our national security. But many of our greatest problems aren’t halfway around the world – they’re halfway down the block. Rather than nation-building in Afghanistan, we need more nation-building right here at home.
Mr. Chairman, this is not a partisan issue. It’s about doing what’s right for our troops and for the nation. If you’ve ever even once thought that we need to do something different in Afghanistan – that it’s time to re-think our policy – that we need to bring our troops home to their loved ones – then this is the amendment to support.
I ask all my colleagues to vote for this amendment.”