House rejects Afghan withdrawal deadline

WASHINGTON -- The House last week defeated a resolution that called for the United States to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Lawmakers voted 356-65 to kill the motion by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who advertised the debate as the first substantive House discussion of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since 2001.

Kucinich and other resolution supporters argued that the escalation of the war in Afghanistan is straining the United States.

"Our presence in Afghanistan has become counter­productive," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. "We are bogged down amidst a long-standing civil war between feuding Afghans of differing tribes, classes, and regions whose goals have little to do with our own.

"Moreover," Nadler said, "our very presence in Afghanistan has fueled the rising insurgency and emboldened those who oppose foreign intervention or occupation of any kind, who see us as foreign invaders."

Opponents of the resolution said President Barack Obama's counterinsurgency strategy that included adding 30,000 U.S. troops to the allied force in Afghanistan should be given a chance to work. Obama has set a July 2011 goal to draw down U.S. forces.

"Success is not guaranteed in this mission, but passing this resolution guarantees failure in Afghanistan and poses a serious risk that we will once again face the same situation that existed on Sept. 11, 2001," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

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

Senate OKs safety net bill

The Senate voted 62-36 for a $140 billion bill that would extend jobless benefits and health insurance subsidies for the unemployed until the end of the year.

The bill also would provide short-term aid to states having trouble covering Medicaid costs, and avert a cut in the payments that doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.

Also in the measure are one-year extensions of a variety of tax breaks for businesses and families, including a research and development tax credit and allowed deductions for state and local sales taxes.

The bill was a piece of what Democrats called their jobs agenda.

Critics said it will create few jobs while adding to the budget deficit.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted for the bill. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against it.

A similar bill has passed the House.

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