Top Dem to Obama: 'There Ain't Going to Be Money for Nothing if We Pour It All Into Afghanistan'

Rep Obey digs in over the war; promises to demand a tax if more troops are sent.

ByABC News
November 19, 2009, 11:20 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2009— -- The powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has a stark message for President Obama about Afghanistan -- sending more troops would be a mistake that could "wipe out every initiative we have to rebuild our own economy."

"There ain't going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan," House Appropriations Chairman David Obey told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "If they ask for an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan, I am going to ask them to pay for it."

Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, made it clear that he is absolutely opposed to sending any more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and says if Obama decides to do that, he'll demand a new tax -- what he calls a "war surtax" -- to pay for it.

"On the merits, I think it is a mistake to deepen our involvement," Obey said. "But if we are going to do that, then at least we ought to pay for it. Because if we don't, if we don't pay for it, the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every initiative we have to rebuild our own economy."

Obey's opposition to funding a troop increase in Afghanistan without a new tax would pose a significant problem for Obama if he decides to send more troops (a decision the White House says the President could make as early as November 30).

As Appropriations Committee chairman, Obey was a key player in securing money for the war when the last war funding bill narrowly passed the House in June.

His demand for a new war tax echoes a similar call by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, also a Democrat, who recently told Bloomberg's Al Hunt that he favors a new tax on Americans earning more than $200,000 a year to pay for sending any additional troops.

Obey argued that the tax should be paid by all taxpayers, with rates ranging from 1 percent for lower wage earners to 5 percent for the wealthy.

The White House won't be able to count on Obey's support the next time the president seeks funding for the war.

"I want the president and every American to think ahead of time about what it means if you do add to our involvement in Afghanistan," Obey told ABC News. "I am no military strategist, but I don't believe we have the tools to accomplish our mission in Afghanistan because you have to have functioning, effective government and there isn't one in Afghanistan. There isn't one in Pakistan either."