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War funding OKd after debate detour

Members of Congress on Tuesday ended a months-long standoff and agreed to fund President Obama’s Afghanistan troop buildup, but not without debating withdrawal of U.S. troops from neighboring Pakistan.

The release this week of leaked classified reports about the Afghan war propelled efforts by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to push to bring U.S. military personnel home from Pakistan by year’s end.

The House voted 372 to 38 against the resolution to curtail military operations in Pakistan, but the debate served as yet another example of growing antiwar sentiment in Congress.

This month, 162 House members voted to set a withdrawal date from Afghanistan. And on Tuesday, more than 100 Democrats voted against the $58.8-billion war funding bill, which passed 308 to 114. Now, the measure, which also provides funds for Iraq and disaster relief in Haiti and the U.S., goes to Obama for his signature.

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“In light of all the questions that have been raised, it seems to me it is inappropriate for us to vote on a blank check for this administration,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). “I am deeply troubled with all that is coming out. We’re not doing hearings; we’re not doing our oversight.”

Earlier Tuesday, during a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders, the president urged passage of the war-spending package. Without it, the Pentagon has said, its funding will begin to run out next month.

The resolution demanding that U.S. forces withdraw from Pakistan had the distinction of being supported by Paul, one of the chamber’s most libertarian members, and Kucinich, one of its most liberal. Their resolution would have been largely symbolic, expressing the will of Congress.

But leading Democrats said it went too far and could have undermined the U.S strategy to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists.

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“Pakistan is an important partner in the fight against extremism,” said Rep. Howard A. Berman (D-Valley Village), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Any attempt to cut the military ties of the two countries would be counterproductive.”

U.S. military involvement in Pakistan has been a delicate issue for both countries. Congress has not approved combat operations there, as would be needed under the War Powers Act, and the Pakistani public deeply opposes American military involvement.

About 230 U.S. troops are known to operate in the country, engaged in security assistance and training. Risks were highlighted in February when three American soldiers were killed in a suicide attack outside a girls’ school.

The White House has tried for months to secure funds for the president’s decision to order 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Antiwar Democrats in the House led an effort to include more home-front aid to counter the effects of the recession.

But the additional domestic spending doomed the bill in the Senate, which rejected it last week, forcing the House to reconsider a scaled-back funding bill.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com


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