GOP Does About-face on Troop Talk

By Mike Allen
|  Thursday, Jun 18, 2009  |  Updated 6:06 AM EDT
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GOP Does About-face on Troop Talk

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Democrats are taking note of quotes by Republicans when President George W. Bush was in the White House, and the GOP harshly protested opposition objections to war-funding bills.

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To hold up a war-funding bill would be “the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda.” It would be “nothing less than a disgrace.” Why, it would be using “our troops as pawns in a political game.”

That’s what GOP lawmakers said when a Republican president was in the White House, and it was Democrats who were trying to put on the brakes on a war supplemental bill.

Now there’s a Democratic president, and Republicans are strongly protesting his inclusion of a $108 billion line of credit for the International Monetary Fund in a war-spending bill that includes funds for President Barack Obama’s troop buildup in Afghanistan.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News: “Republicans are not going to support a bill that provides for a global bailout to the International Monetary Fund.”

At the White House’s request, the bill also includes about $7 billion for pandemic flu prevention and response. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) complained about flu funding in the stimulus and it got stripped in order to get her vote. Then she was hit with a backlash when the H1N1 flu threatened to become a public health crisis.

A White House official said: “It’s going to be an interesting fall as Republicans try to explain their vote against legislation that they’ve described as funding for our troops in a time of war — because I’m confident their constituents will be reminded.”

The measure narrowly passed the House on Tuesday night, 226-202. Republicans voted against, 170-5, with top party leaders opposed.

A senior Democratic leadership aide said: “This is absolutely stunning and totally irresponsible on the part of John Boehner and House Republicans. George Bush and the Republican Party led us into this war and now Boehner and Co. vote to leave the troops high and dry for political reasons. This is a real game-changer on national security, one House Republicans will be hearing about for a long time."

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs said when asked about the Republicans’ recalcitrance: “I would note with some irony the new message position of Republicans on Capitol Hill.”

“I think there are many important reasons to support this supplemental funding: ensuring our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the commitments that we've made to Pakistan,” Gibbs said, also noting the flu funds. “I think, for any number of reasons, the administration strongly believes that a vote in support of all of these measures is truly important.”

Democrats are taking note of quotes by Republicans when President George W. Bush was in the White House, and the GOP harshly protested opposition objections to war-funding bills.

Boehner, back in June 2008, was quoted as saying in Roll Call: “The Democrats' failure to pass a troop funding bill that will actually get our armed forces the money they need is nothing less than a disgrace.”

And Boehner was quoted by The Washington Times in May 2008: “Speaker Pelosi is using our troops as pawns in a political game to appease far-left, pro-surrender allies in the Democratic caucus. ... This is demeaning to our men and women in uniform, particularly at a time when they are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom.’”

Asked about those old quotes, Kevin Smith, Boehner’s communications director, replied: "The record on supporting our troops is clear. Leader Boehner, like every Republican in the House, has already voted to give the men and women of our Armed Forces the resources they need. This bill would have been done weeks ago if the House Democratic Leadership hadn't decided to play politics by using our troops as leverage to pass a $108 billion global bailout."

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), then the minority Republican whip, was quoted in The Washington Times in March 2007: “There's a reason the supplemental bill is filed under 'emergency spending,' and it's not so that we can sit around and wait for Democrats to think through their political challenges instead of actively engaging the logistical ones.”

A spokesman for Blunt said Wednesday: “Mr. Blunt, and every House Republican, has been clear in our support for the troops. He voted for a bill that had bipartisan support weeks ago because it was about nothing more than funding our troops. The bill on the floor today is about a whole lot more. The conference report the Democrats brought before the House is about bailing out foreign countries and for proof just look at the numbers. Mr. Blunt’s statement is still accurate on the simple fact that Democrats should not use a troop funding bill as an easy way to push a global bailout.”

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