Thursday, December 17, 2009

House GOP Leader Says He’ll Back Clean War Funding Bill

Dec. 17, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said Thursday he will help President Obama win House approval next year for an expected multibillion-dollar spending request to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

But the Ohio Republican warned Obama not to attach any money for transferring terrorist suspects from the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba to a site in rural Illinois.

The administration, which announced this week that it wants to send the Gitmo prisoners to a state prison the federal government would take over in tiny Thomson, Ill., hasn’t said when those prisoners would be moved, how much it will cost to upgrade the prison to the highest security standards, or whether it would even seek a special appropriation for such a project.

Boehner has some leverage. Democrats are divided on the surge, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., said Wednesday that she will not help the president round up Democratic votes for a war funding bill. That means Obama will need solid Republican support.

“I will work to see our troops get everything they need to succeed,” Boehner told reporters.

The GOP leader initially withheld support for Obama’s plan because the president said the additional troops sent to Afghanistan would start to come home within 18 months. Boehner and other Republicans said that such a timetable would send a dangerous signal to the Taliban and al Qaeda to simply wait out U.S. forces.

But he said that after hearing congressional testimony from top administration officials and the Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, he feels there is sufficient flexibility in the withdrawal timetable to take into account conditions on the ground in the country.

“I told the president” at a recent White House meeting “that I had listened,” Boehner said. “I think they presented a plausible plan for success in Afghanistan.”

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