(H.R. 4899) On an amendment to war funding legislation providing $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, $10 billion for an “Education Jobs Fund” to prevent teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants, and $700 million for border security enforcement
This was a vote on an amendment to war funding legislation providing $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $10 billion for an “Education Jobs Fund” to prevent teacher layoffs. It also provided $5 billion for Pell Grants for low-income college students and $700 million for border security enforcement.
The Democratic leadership had devised a strategy for bringing up a Senate-passed war funding bill, which divided the bill into 5 different “amendments” (a parliamentary procedure known as “division of the question”). This particular amendment contained war funding, education funding, and funds for border security. (Other amendments included restrictions on Iraq and Afghanistan war funds). This strategy allowed liberal and anti-war members of the Democratic caucus to vote against funding for military operations they opposed – and vote in favor of the restrictions on war funding described above. (For example, a member could vote against the amendment containing $37 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but vote in favor of an amendment requiring the president to submit to Congress a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.)
Rep. David Obey (D-WI) urged support for this amendment, and particularly cited the need for the education jobs fund: “We now bring before the House a bill which reflects what we've been asked to do by a great many Members. It attempts to provide a much smaller aid package to keep those teachers on the job, about $10 billion; and it contains a few other small items, including almost $5 billion in additional Pell Grants funds for some 87,000 students who are going to need them badly….I think people need to ask themselves one question: Are they interested in simply standing by and allowing teachers to be fired…or are they willing to do something about it?”
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) criticized the process by which Democratic leaders brought up the bill, and argued all provisions not relating to war funding ought to have been removed from the measure: “I urge my colleagues on both sides, particularly my friends in the majority who are truly concerned about the ever-escalating rates of growth of spending, to reject these amendments and reject this Fourth of July spending spree. Let's support our troops, pass a clean version of the supplemental on a broad, bipartisan basis, and get this package to the Commander in Chief. Our men and women in harm's way deserve no less.”
A number of Democrats also opposed the measure’s war funding. Rep Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said: “I rise in opposition to the $37 billion in this bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I oppose this war funding, and I believe that our presence in Afghanistan is not strengthening our national security. Instead of spending this money on a war that doesn't make us any safer, I believe we should be reducing the deficit and investing here at home.”
The House passed this amendment by a vote of 239-182. 236 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – and 3 Republicans voted “yea.” 167 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed this section of the war-funding bill, which provided $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $10 billion for an education jobs fund to prevent teacher layoffs.