This was a vote on a resolution outlining the terms for debate on a measure directing the president to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Specifically, the president would be required to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan within 30 days of the measure's enactment. If the President determines that U.S. forces could not be safely withdrawn by that date, he would be required to remove them by December 31, 2010, or an "earlier date that the President determines that they can be safely removed."
U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan began following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Obama administration had previously indicated a drawdown of troops could begin by July 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, has said that a withdrawal of U.S. forces could begin sooner, depending on conditions on the ground.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) argued that the House must act to preserve its constitutional role with respect to military action: "Mr. Speaker, in 2001 I joined the House in voting for the Authorization for Use of Military Force. In the past 8 1/2 years, it has become clear that the Authorization for Use of Military Force is being interpreted as carte blanche for circumventing Congress' role as a coequal branch of government."
Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-NY) warned that the U.S. forces could not succeed in bringing an end to a civil war in Afghanistan: "I am not convinced that the United States and its allies can end the 35-year civil war in Afghanistan, nor is that our responsibility. We should not use our troops to prop up a corrupt government. It is simply not justifiable to sacrifice more lives and more money on this war. We must rethink our policy. If we do not, we are doomed to failure and further loss of American lives."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) contended that a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would be interpreted by America's enemies as a sign of weakness: "Our retreat would be seen around the world by friends and opponents alike as a surrender, as a sign that America no longer has the will to defend herself. We might attempt to fool ourselves into believing that it was merely a temporary setback, that we have suffered no long-term blow, but no one else would be fooled. It would be proof to every group that wishes to attack and destroy us that we can be fought and we can be beaten, that eventually America will just give up, regardless of the consequences."
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) argued a withdrawal of U.S. forces would be irresponsible: "…The notion that at this particular moment we would demand a complete withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, without regard to the consequence of our withdrawal, without regard to the situation on the ground, including efforts to promote economic development, expand the rule of law, and without any measurement of whether the ``hold'' strategy now being implemented is indeed working, I don't think is the responsible thing to do."
The House rejected the measure calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by a vote of 65-356. 60 Democrats -- including a majority of the most progressive members -- and 5 Republicans voted "yea." 189 Democrats and 167 Republicans voted "nay." As a result, the House rejected legislation directing the president to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan.