War bill omits funds for Gitmo closure

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“With no safe alternative, this is the only sensible approach,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor, one in a series of speeches in recent days blasting the move.

Last week, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, issued a Web video that asked: “What are Democrats doing to keep America safe?” It charged that Mr. Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo and end harsh interrogation techniques that some criticize as torture would put the United States at risk of another Sept. 11-type terrorist attack.

On the video at JohnBoehner.House.gov, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, says, “The real question we now face is: What is President Obama’s strategy to confront this threat from radical jihadists?”

About 100,000 viewers had visited the video Web site as of Monday, according to Mr. Boehner’s office.

The war spending bill also would require the administration to submit a progress report to Congress before presenting an annual budget request next year.

The report must include five “concrete standards of performance” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including measures of political unity, reduced government corruption, improved security, improved cooperation on intelligence matters and improved government control of its territory.

Mr. Obey said he doubted that Mr. Obama would succeed in the war effort because Pakistan and Afghanistan are not committed to defeating Islamic extremists. He said success or failure is in the hands of Afghan politicians and the Pakistani military.

“I’m dubious about those hands,” he said.

The benchmarks nevertheless put the White House on the defensive when it reports to Congress next year before seeking more war funds.

Democrats fought unsuccessfully to use previous supplemental war spending bills to force President Bush to accept a troop withdrawal timetable for Iraq, which the administration opposed because it said it would hamstring the war effort.

Democrats ultimately succeeded in attaching performance benchmarks and reporting requirements for the Iraq mission to war spending bills. The measures did not affect the war strategy, although antiwar lawmakers and activists seized on the data to argue that the U.S. was losing the war.

The $94.2 billion spending bill, which is $9.3 billion more than the White House requested, funds most of Mr. Obama’s war plans other than the Guantanamo Bay prison closure.

Mr. Obama’s first war spending bill would double spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far this year and pay for military operations into the fall. If approved, it would boost 2009 war spending to about $160 billion, which is about $30 billion less than what the U.S. spent on the wars in 2008 and about $10 billion less than in 2007.

Mr. Obama, who as a senator criticized the Bush administration for paying for the wars with supplemental spending bills that increase federal debt, promised that future requests would be part of the regular budget.

The bill provided to lawmakers on Monday would push the cost of the wars to nearly $1 trillion since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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