This vote was on an amendment by Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would call for hearings on Afghanistan and Pakistan’s resources and strategies. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Defense Department and related programs in fiscal 2010.
Levin’s amendment would call specifically for testimony from the Defense secretary, the secretary of State, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, the commander of the U.S. forces for Afghanistan, and the U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Levin said his amendment would not set a hard date for the hearing, but rather would specify that it would take place after President Obama has made his own strategic decision about how to go forward in the region. His amendment was presented as a counterpoint to one offered by John McCain, R-Ariz.
“Under the amendment which I am offering, which will be voted on concurrently, or at the same time as the McCain amendment, we are going to have, if this amendment is adopted, a hearing not just on resources but on strategy and resources,” Levin said. “We are going to have that hearing, if this amendment is adopted, at the appropriate time, not with an arbitrary deadline, which sets a very bad premise. I believe in this circumstance, similar to the Bush Iraq surge circumstance, where the President of the United States, be it President Bush or President Obama, has before him and is considering, in a very deliberative way, this kind of a life-and-death decision. Under the Levin amendment, there will be a hearing without an arbitrary deadline, but the hearing will take place and could take place long before November 15. The hearing under my amendment will take place promptly after the decision is made by the President.”
McCain said the situation in Afghanistan is critical and that the longer decisions are delayed, the more perilous daily life becomes for the U.S. troops that are already there. McCain advocated for his amendment, which would require that U.S. commanders and others appear before Congress within 45 days to testify.
“Let’s have no doubt what is at stake. The American people and their representatives at least need to hear within the next month and a half, 45 days, as to what the recommendations and strategy of our military leaders are. I emphasize, they are not the last word. The Commander in Chief has the last word. But the Commander in Chief, whatever decision he makes, also has to come to Congress for the necessary assets and authorization to do whatever his strategy is. So we do play a significant role. The American people and their elected representatives, as the chairman of the House Armed Services has said, as the majority leader of the House of Representatives has said, need to hear from these military leaders,” McCain said.
The amendment was adopted by a vote of 60-39. Every Democrat present voted for the amendment. All but one Republican present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would order a hearing on military resources and strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan promptly after President Obama has made a decision about how to move forward in the region. (McCain’s amendment was rejected, see vote 305.)