The war supplemental for Afghanistan is expected to come back from the Senate to the House this week – without any kind of timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and without money to save teachers’ jobs attached.
In a take-it-or-leave-it gesture, the Senate voted Thursday night to reject more than $20 billion in domestic spending the House had tacked on to its $60 billion bill to fund President Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan.
The moves repel a long-shot bid by House Democrats earlier this month to resurrect their faltering jobs agenda with $10 billion in grants to school districts to avoid teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants to low-income college students, $1 billion for a summer jobs program and $700 million to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Labor unions had strongly backed the House Democratic effort to attach money to the supplemental, to boost employment and avoid teacher layoffs. Will these unions now urge House Democrats to vote no on any jobless war supplemental?
Few expect that the House, in a freestanding vote this week, will reject the $33 billion request for the Afghanistan war, since until now there has been a solid block of more than 90 percent of House Republicans committed to voting yes on what they would consider a “relatively clean” war supplemental.
But what is in serious dispute is how many House Democrats will vote no on a jobless war supplemental. A large Democratic no vote would send a strong signal to the White House of House Democratic impatience with a blank checkbook for endless and fruitless war, while the administration insists that there is no money to save jobs at home, at a time of nearly 10 percent measured unemployment. A large Democratic no vote would also send a powerful signal of Democratic “no confidence” in the Pentagon’s war plans, increasing pressure on the administration to vigorously pursue a political resolution to the conflict and to establish a timetable for military withdrawal – as desired by the majority of Americans and three-quarters of Democrats, according to a recent CBS poll.
Labor advocates and the majority of House Democrats now have two solid reasons to support a no vote. First, their efforts to add money to save jobs at home have been rejected by the Senate – with White House approval. Second, there is no timetable for military withdrawal embedded in the legislation – not even the July 2011 beginning of a drawdown that President Obama promised last year but which General Petraeus is now doing his best to undermine.
Sixty percent of House Democrats voted on July 1 to require President Obama to establish a timetable for withdrawal.
And increasingly, labor unions are turning explicitly against the war.
On July 11, the American Federation of Teachers, meeting at their national convention in Seattle, adopted a resolution calling for:
“an end to our current open-ended military involvement in Afghanistan, with a specific timetable for the rapid, orderly withdrawal of all armed forces and military contractors from Afghanistan, to begin immediately.”
United Auto Workers President Bob King and Rainbow PUSH leader Jesse Jackson have announced that a march in Detroit on Aug. 28, the 47th anniversary of King’s 1963 march on Washington, will kick off a campaign to to rebuild the nation’s cities, provide jobs and education, enact a moratorium on foreclosures and end the wars in the Middle East [my emphasis].
The Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Vermont state AFL-CIO labor federations have called for ending the war in Afghanistan, as have the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE).
If you oppose the spending of your tax dollars for more war, make your voice heard. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has established a toll-free number that connects you to the Capitol switchboard: 1-888-493-5443, which will transfer you to your Representative’s office. If you use this number, it will add to FCNL’s count of how many people called Congress against the war supplemental, so your call will be tallied in two places.