GOP appropriator offers plan for funding Afghanistan troop increase

House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., Monday called for holding down increases in five nondefense fiscal 2010 spending bills to 2 percent over fiscal 2009 levels to pay for most of President Obama's Afghanistan plan, which will be unveiled Tuesday night.

Referring to the Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Labor-HHS, State-Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD bills, Lewis said in a release that "Limiting just these five bills to a 2 percent increase would free up about $35 billion -- enough to pay for the lion's share of a troop increase."

So far, only five of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been signed by Obama, while Military Construction-VA, Defense, Transportation-HUD, and C-J-S are waiting for House and Senate negotiators to agree on final versions.

Lewis suggested using unspent money from the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed in February to fund Afghanistan spending over $35 billion.

His proposal comes after House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., introduced legislation -- which has 10 co-sponsors -- that would require the president to set a war surtax that fully pays for the previous year's war cost. The surtax -- which would not be levied on soldiers who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, along with their families or the families of the fallen -- would begin in 2011.

"If we don't address the cost of this war, we will continue shoving billions of dollars in taxes off on future generations," Obey and the bill's co-sponsors said in a Nov. 19 release, adding that the war costs will drain resources from other priorities, such as healthcare reform and expanding education opportunities.

Lewis doesn't support the surtax because he believes it would cost jobs.

"Instead of yet another job-killing tax, this Congress should do the right thing and make common-sense budget decisions that reflect our ultimate national priority -- providing for our national security and giving our men and women in uniform with the resources they need to get the job done," Lewis said.

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