Washington (CNN) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a rare House floor vote Thursday defying a veto threat from President Obama and further emphasizing her concerns about the war in Afghanistan.
Pelosi's vote was in favor of an amendment to the Pentagon spending bill. It would have placed tough restrictions on funding for the war in Afghanistan - including a demand for a detailed troop withdrawal plan and a threat to pull money for the war if the military stays beyond next summer.
The amendment failed. But 153 Democrats, well over half the House Democratic caucus, and nine Republicans voted for it, despite a White House veto threat that passage of the amendment would undermine the President's "ability as Commander in Chief to conduct military operations in Afghanistan."
It would have required the President to give Congress a new intelligence report on Afghanistan by January and a plan for withdrawing troops by April. If the President didn't follow through on his pledge to start bringing troops home by July 2011, Congress would need to approve additional funding for the war.
The late night vote was a clear message from the President's own party that it is restless about his war strategy in Afghanistan.
Typically the Speaker of the House doesn't cast votes, but shortly before midnight Pelosi's office released a written statement from the Speaker publicizing her vote for the amendment.
"Our men and women in uniform continue to perform heroically in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world, and it is critical that Congress has the most up-to-date information as we debate policies that impact our soldiers, their families and our national security," Pelosi said.
The public statement from the Speaker, who has previously admitted her concerns about the war in Afghanistan, came only hours after she refused to be pinned down at her weekly press conference about whether she favored attaching conditions or timelines to the war funding measure.
Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern, one of the key sponsors of the amendment, put out a statement Friday touting Pelosi's support and rare vote and said the vote represented a "milestone" in the debate over Afghanistan. He said it was part of a continued push by Democrats to press the Obama Administration to get troops out.
"This vote should send a signal to the Administration that Congress is increasingly troubled by risking the lives of our troops and borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars for 'nation-building' in Afghanistan while we are facing a dire economic situation here at home. I will continue to work to build bi-partisan support for a meaningful exit strategy from this war," McGovern said.
The House ultimately passed the President's request for $37 billion in war money. But House Democrats also added over $20 billion in domestic spending to the measure. Because the Senate version doesn't include the additional money, the Pentagon will have to wait until Congress comes back from its July 4th break to work out a final bill.
In addition to breaking with the President on Afghanistan, Pelosi also brushed back the White House's request not to cut $800 million from the Administration's top education initiatives, including a school reform program called "Race to the Top." Hours before the vote, the White House released a statement saying it would recommend a veto if Democrats slashed the programs. But Democrats ignored the threat and cut the money in order to pay for their own education priority to help states avoid teacher lay offs.
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