House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday all but eliminated the prospect of a "war tax" to pay for the escalation in Afghanistan, saying she opposed it. But she suggested it would be considered if President Barack Obama asked for it.
"I am not in support of the proposal of Mr. Obey," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said of the tax plan suggested by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.). "When the president makes a request, we will make a decision.
"With the highest regard for Mr. Obey, that is his idea," Pelosi said. "He is speaking for himself."
White House officials have said that a war tax is not being discussed within the Obama administration.
In a 12-minute weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi made no mention of Afghanistan in her opening comments. She opined on Obama's plan only after reporters pressed her.
But she indicated she has taken steps to get House members more information. She said she has asked White House officials to provide a top-level briefing for the full House, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.
Democratic House members are expected to discuss Obama's war plan in a closed-door caucus meeting next week.
Pelosi also reinforced the Democratic strategy of fighting off Republican criticism by lambasting then-President George W. Bush's handling of the conflict and wondering what Republicans had been doing about Afghanistan when they were in power.
"They hit and ran ... and went to Iraq," Pelosi said. "The Bush administration ran up trillions of dollars in war costs and not many Republicans asked how we were going to pay for it."
The GOP quickly responded to Pelosi's comments.
"Look, blaming President Bush will not stop the avalanche of wasteful 'stimulus' spending that isn't working, or the debt that Washington Democrats are passing to our kids and grandkids, or make our nation more secure by giving the troops the tools they need to succeed in Afghanistan," said Minority Leader John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel.