Teacher funding added to war spending bill


Lawmakers who want to prevent thousands of teacher layoffs but oppose spending more money on the war in Afghanistan face a dilemma in Congress this week.

Funding to prevent layoffs of thousands of teachers across the country is being blocked by "deficit-hawks" in Congress. To try to get around that stonewall, Democratic leaders have attached funding for education jobs to the $30 billion supplemental war appropriations measure requested by President Obama.

Late Tuesday night, House Democratic leaders announced they had put together a war spending bill that, along with the $30 billion for the Afghanistan troop surge, includes a $10 billion Education Jobs Fund to help local school districts avoid approximately 140,000 teacher layoffs when schools reopen in September. It also provides $5 billion to fill a shortfall in Pell Grant funding for low-income college students. Another roughly $30 billion would fund police and firefighter jobs, disaster assistance, foreign aid, border security, and disability benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Bowing to right-wing pressure, House Democratic leaders said these funds would be paid for by cutting money previously appropriated in the stimulus bill and other bills for things like community development and rural Internet projects. They said unspent defense funds would also be used to cover the costs.

The Senate passed a $59 billion version of the war funding bill on May 27.

A $23 billion emergency education jobs funding measure introduced in the Senate by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, went nowhere because of the deficit frenzy being whipped up by Republicans, with support from some Blue Dog Democrats.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been pressing Congress to approve the war funding before the congressional July 4 recess.

Progressive House members have pushed for a separate vote on the war money. Some Congressional Progressive Caucus members say they will vote against the entire supplemental funding bill if they are not given a chance to vote against the war funding separately, Roll Call reported.

"Those who want to vote to continue funding the war that I disagreed with and they want should be allowed to make that vote," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who has opposed the Afghanistan war from its start. "For those of us who want to see the creation of jobs, Haiti [earthquake aid], all of the other domestic priorities, we should have a separate vote."

"Don't ask people like me to have to vote for a bill that provides funding for teachers and funding for a war," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "It's not right to do that."

But, according to Roll Call, Democratic leaders feel that, without the cover of the war money, "moderate" Democrats cowed by the Republican deficit-cutting hysteria will not support the education and other domestic funding.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., told Politico, "Our problem right now is a significant number of moderates don't want to vote for the domestic spending and a significant number of progressives don't want to vote for the war funding."

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a leading opponent of spending more for the war, suggested to Roll Call that Blue Dog Democrats should vote to "support the basic needs of people in this country."

"I know they have their pay-for business," she added, "but then they should start looking at taking money out of defense, and that would pay for a lot."

House leaders were said to be considering holding separate votes on the war spending and the other programs, but then combining the measures into one bill. This would allow antiwar lawmakers to register their opposition to the war funding.

Congressional Democrats are reportedly assessing the mood of voters in their districts: Do voters think cutting the deficit is more important than preventing mass teacher layoffs? Should teacher jobs, help for veterans suffering from Agent Orange disease, or Pell Grants, depend on spending more money for war? Grassroots public education and peace advocates have a challenge on their hands this week: get the message to Congress.

Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have set up special web pages where public education supporters can contact their members of Congress and ask them to pass the Education Jobs Fund.

Meanwhile Peace Action is urging calls to members of Congress asking for no more war funding and asking them to co-sponsor HR 5015, the Feingold-McGovern bill which would set an Afghanistan withdrawal timetable. Calls can be made via the Peace Action website or to 1-800-427-8619.

Photo: Five thousand Michigan school employees and supporters of public education attended a Michigan Education Association rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, June 24. Michigan's budget problems will become significantly worse and state programs will be put at risk if Congress doesn't revive a federal spending bill, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Friday. (AP/Greg DeRuiter - Lansing State Journal)


Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • I believe domestic funding should come before war funding and there should be separate voting to allow antiwar lawmakers to register their opposition to the war. As a voter, i vote for anti-war representatives, and if my representative cannot represent my vote, then this democracy is a sham.

    Posted by Libra51, 07/04/2010 4:02pm (5 years ago)

  • Susan Webb's response to Thomas Kenny does not accurately reflect what he wrote. Nowhere did Mr. Kenny call Obama the enemy. He simply stated the obvious, Obama is not blameless and needs to be pressured.

    If Ms. Webb is simply reporting and not editorializing, then she should report that the administration is doing nothing to support the progressives in Congress who want to at least separate the war funding from funding for education. In fact, in the name of not wanting to do anything which will upset the deficit spending hawks, the administration seems to be doing everything to discourage the progressives, including Representative Lee.

    Let's give the entire picture, it is not just Congressional leaders bowing to the right, it is the administration as well.

    Posted by David Bell, 07/01/2010 10:01pm (5 years ago)

  • This was a very useful article.

    There were a couple of polls released this week which offer an interesting background for this funding discussion in congress. From the Huffington Post”

    “A majority of Americans support President Obama's plan for withdrawing
    from Afghanistan starting in July 2011, according to a USA
    Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday.

    “Fifty-eight percent of Americans said they agreed with the plan, while
    38 percent opposed it. Most of the opposition was to having a deadline
    at all -- 29 percent of respondents did not think that that U.S.
    should set a timetable.

    “Self-identified Democrats overwhelmingly responded that they favored
    Obama's withdrawal plan. Independents favored the plan 57 percent to
    36 percent, while Republicans opposed the plan 65 percent to 31

    An earlier poll had it that 25% wanted immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Assuming that is accurate, the Obama base is divided about evenly between those who want out now and those who are willing to put up with another year, but with a firm guarantee. Overall, opposition to the war seems to be growing, albeit slowly.

    This war is of course going nowhere. So what’s Obama going to be doing next year this time?

    I suspect he’ll figure out he’s a one-termer if he sells out his supporters and goes along with the military. And I don’t think there’ll be any more stomach around the country for much more of this military victory around the corner, light at the end of the tunnel rhetoric. Pulling out of Afghanistan at that point would be exceptionally popular. (I think it would be wildly popular now, but that’s just me.)

    In the meantime, people against the war should demand that there should be no more funding for the war. That may not be a winning strategy now, but it will put the White House and Congress that the status quo of endless war funding is coming to a halt.

    Posted by Dave Cunningham, 07/01/2010 5:45pm (5 years ago)

  • Shouldn't a Communist newspaper take a position against war spending for an imperialist aggression -- such as the Afghan War -- as a matter of principle, regardless of Congressional Democratic tactical considerations?

    It may be a "dilemma" for Congressional Democrats; it shouldn't be a dilemma for us.

    The Obama Administration, as this reports correctly states, is the driving force behind the demand for $30 billion more for his Afghan escalation.

    Why not a word of criticism of Obama? Why no call for pressure on Obama?

    One can only welcome the article's call for grassroots pressure on Congress.

    But it is sheer sophistry to hold Obama blameless while blaming everyone and everything else: "right-wing pressure," "Republicans, "Blue Dog Democrats," Robert Gates, the uncertainties of public sentiment, and so on.
    The political line, stubbornly maintained in this article, that Obama is a good fellow; it's just that he is surrounded by bad advisers and right-wing pressures, is making our Party a laughing stock.

    Posted by Thomas Kenny, New York NY, 07/01/2010 1:32pm (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments