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San Francisco Dems Tell Pelosi to Support McGovern 'Afghan Exit' Bill

Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) has filed a modest and eminently reasonable bill, HR 2404, which states that "Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom." Or at least the bill seems reasonable to McGovern's Democratic colleagues, the majority of whom supported his attempt to attach its language as an amendment to the most recent appropriation bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One Democrat who apparently doesn't find it reasonable, however, is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose House leadership mustered enough Democrats to combine with virtually the entire Republican House membership to defeat the amendment. But her own city's Democratic Party has now told her that they beg to differ.

At its July monthly meeting, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC), the Party's official voice on the local level, urged Pelosi to join Jackie Speier, the city's other Congresswoman, and ninety-five others as cosponsors of the McGovern bill. Although no one would ultimately vote against the resolution that night (there were several abstentions), when it comes to SFDCCC resolutions regarding Pelosi, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, "It's always something." This time, the proxy for State Senator Mark Leno explained that the Senator made it a policy never to tell other elected officials what to do (and, indeed, he did take a pass on last year's ballot question regarding Iraq War funding.) Instead, he suggested amending the resolution to simply address "members of Congress" rather than naming names.

While such face saving moves have been accepted in the body in the past, this time resolution cosponsor Debra Walker indicated that she thought it important to be absolutely clear as to the object of the proposal and said she would oppose the amendment. After it failed on a roll call vote, next up was an argument that the resolution was inappropriate because by custom the Speaker of the House doesn't sponsor legislation. Although Pelosi's official proxy had circulated this argument in advance, he failed to appear on the night of the meeting. However, another member of the Speaker's staff serves as an elected Committee member in her own right and she repeated the claim - apparently in all innocence.

But when the resolution's sponsors responded to this argument by presenting a list of 28 bills Pelosi had actually sponsored in the last, 110th Congress, it was pretty much all over but the abstaining. Particularly noteworthy on her list of bills was HR 2956, a bill "to require the Secretary of Defense to commence the reduction of the number of United States Armed Forces in Iraq to a limited presence by April 1, 2008." (An interesting cosponsor of that bill was then-Representative Rahm Emanuel, current White House Chief of Staff. Apparently both he and Pelosi are perfectly willing to tell Secretary of Defense Robert Gates what to do, but only when he's serving a Republican President.)

There was probably no one present at the Committee meeting naive enough to think that the resolution would have much impact upon Pelosi (or, for that matter, on Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, who were urged to file similar legislation in the US Senate.) Pelosi is, after all, already ignoring the will of the 61 percent of her district's voters who last November directed her to "vote against any further funding for the deployment of United States Armed Forces in Iraq." But the SFDCCC vote does at least underline the large and growing divide between Pelosi's foreign policy actions in Washington and the views of the people who sent her there, particularly now that she now longer stands in opposition to the White House on partisan grounds.

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of 'The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.' He lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at

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