US President Barack Obama’s penchant for last-minute demands and a rebellion by liberal allies over his efforts to block release of detainee abuse photos have combined to sidetrack his bill to pay for an expanded war in Afghanistan and continuing military operations in Iraq.
After winning easy approval in both chambers of Congress last month, the US$100 billion measure is awaiting a report by a US House-Senate conference committee, whose job is to work out differences in versions passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. An emerging congressional compromise on the bill has become caught in crosscurrents coming from both Obama’s left and right.
The firestorm over detainee photos comes as Obama needs liberals more than ever, since House Republican support has evaporated over the White House’s desire to include US$5 billion to finance a new US$108 billion US line of credit for the IMF to help poor countries deal with their own collapsing economies as a result of the world recession.
Given sweeping tallies for the war measure in the House and Senate last month, producing a compromise should have been easy.
Instead, the White House decided to add the IMF money to the bill to fulfill a promise Obama made at the G20 summit in April.
Although the risk to taxpayers is estimated at no more than US$5 billion, the government would have to borrow the full US$108 billion.
House Republicans have lobbed partisan salvo after salvo against the idea ever since the Senate put it in its version.
“Borrowing money from China for a global bailout of the IMF makes no sense,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House minority member.
About 50 House liberals opposed to one or both of the wars voted against the bill last month when the measure passed on a 368-60 tally. But even though liberals such as Democratic Representative Barney Frank can stomach reversing course and vote for the war money, they are drawing the line at Obama’s bid to exempt detainee abuse photos from the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which would prevent their public disclosure.
The upshot is that the administration faces a choice: Drop the IMF line of credit and win back Republicans, or give in to the liberal revolt and quit using all means to block the release and publication of photos detailing harsh treatment of terror detainees.
“It’s a bill-killer, especially if the administration wants IMF [funding],” Frank said of the FOIA exemptions the White Houses wants for the detainee photos. “I’ve conveyed that.”
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