House Democrat to Call for Afghanistan Timetable

Posted April 13, 2010 at 12:25pm

Anti-war House Democrat Jim McGovern (Mass.) said Tuesday he will introduce a proposal calling for a “flexible timetable” to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

McGovern will introduce his proposal Wednesday, said spokesman Michael Mershon.

McGovern coordinated with the Senate’s leading anti-war Democrat — Russ Feingold (Wis.) — to develop the proposal, and Feingold is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate this week.

McGovern had not yet decided whether he would try to attach the proposal to a supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and provide relief to earthquake-stricken Haiti, Mershon said. Such a move would highlight deep divisions with the Democratic Caucus over whether Congress should impose timetables on the administration for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Appropriators could mark up that measure as soon as next week.

The fiscal 2011 defense authorization or appropriations bills would be other possible vehicles.

“We haven’t settled on the best legislative strategy yet,” Mershon said in an e-mail.

McGovern has not yet received a response to a letter he, Feingold and Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) sent to President Barack Obama April 9 voicing concern about the administration’s Afghanistan strategy and calling on Obama to act on his own to set a timetable for troop withdrawal that — while flexible — would “clearly specify any variables that would warrant its alteration.”

Feingold’s and McGovern’s proposals could signal a hardening stance on the part of anti-war Democrats in Congress, many of whom did not press Obama particularly hard during his first year in office to end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) offered a privileged resolution last month that, if successful, would have subjected Obama to a 30-day deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The measure drew just 65 votes, including five from Republicans.

It remains to be seen whether Feingold’s and McGovern’s proposals will galvanize liberal House Democrats, who were united in their opposition to the Iraq War but have been somewhat divided on Obama’s Afghanistan strategy.

Only about half of the 80-plus members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus supported Kucinich’s resolution last month.