House backs Obama's Afghan strategy

WASHINGTON -- The House voted last week to continue supporting President Barack Obama's strategy for war in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers defeated amendments that variously would have cut off funds for the war, ordered a withdrawal, and forced Obama to present Congress with a pullout plan next year.

The debate revealed splits among Democrats about the prospects for Obama finding success in Afghanistan, where the war against the Taliban is in its ninth year.

"The reality is that there is no military solution to Afghanistan," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. "It is already the longest war in our nation's history, longer than Vietnam and the Civil War, and there is really no end in sight. So enough is enough."

"If we really supported our troops, we'd bring them home," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Speaking in support of the war, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Obama's move to "surge" 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan "is a good strategy."

"We're already seeing clear signs of success even before the surge," Skelton said. "Now is not the time to abandon this war, our NATO allies and the Afghan people.

"It would be equally unwise to make a decision now to leave Afghanistan before the job is done," Skelton said.

■ An amendment by Lee that called for the "safe and orderly withdrawal" of armed forces from Afghanistan was killed, 100-321.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against the amendment.

■ An amendment by Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., would have required Obama to submit the outlines of a pullout plan to Congress by next April. It was defeated 162-260.

Berkley voted for the amendment. Titus and Heller voted against it.

■ An amendment that called for an immediate cutoff of funding for the war was defeated, 25-376.

Berkley, Heller and Titus voted against the amendment.

Debate over the war took place as the House considered an $80 billion spending bill that included $33 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It also approved spending for a variety of domestic programs, including $10 billion in aid to states for education, $1 billion for summer jobs, $5 billion for scholarships to low-income college students, $700 million for border security and $142 million for oil spill aid to the Gulf Coast.

Republicans balked at additional spending. Further, Obama threatened a veto because the amendment offsets some of the new spending by making cuts in Obama's "Race to the Top" school reform plan.

Nonetheless, the domestic spending was approved by a 239-182 vote.

Berkley and Titus voted for it. Heller voted against it.

House oks Wall Street rules

Voting 237-192, the House gave final approval to a bill that strengthens government powers to deal with upheavals among financial services firms. The bill was sent to the Senate.

Written in response to the 2008 near-meltdown of the financial industry, the measure requires banks to keep more capital in reserve to cover losses. It also increases government authority to wind down teetering institutions, and to regulate exotic and risky investment schemes.

The bill also creates a federal agency to oversee mortgages, credit cards and other consumer financial products.

Democrats said the bill will avert economic catastrophes. Republicans complained it was an overreaction that will stymie economic recovery and job creation.

Berkley and Titus voted for the bill. Heller voted against it.

Contact Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or at 202-783-1760.