Pentagon spending

Sen. Franken introduces bill to force Congress to pay for war

One theme that arises in discussion of the Afghanistan war is that Americans just don’t feel the impact enough in their daily lives. The all-volunteer military, along with their friends and family, bear an enormous burden in a war that has continued over nearly a decade. While the current budget debate makes it clear that domestic programs that matter to people are being slashed while war spending continues, Congress hasn’t had a serious debate about the tradeoffs we make. Without that debate, it’s much easier to continue unnecessary and expensive wars.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is working to change that with his new Pay For War Resolution. The bill would mandate that all future wars are paid for by either increasing revenues or cutting spending. Sen. Franken introduced the bill in a floor speech last week:

The resolution seeks to reestablish a fiscally responsible way of paying for our wars. It’s fiscally responsible because it would require that war spending be paid for, or offset, as we say in the Senate. It’s also morally and politically responsible because it would re-establish the connection between the citizenry of the U.S. and the costs of going to war – a burden that is now shared solely by the men and women of the military and their families, while the rest is passed on to future generations in the form of debt.

Sen. Franken was clear that this resolution is not symbolic; he intends to work to pass it into law. If this bill were passed and the administration had to come to Congress for supplemental funding for operations in Libya, for instance, the additional funding would have to be offset or the provision would have to be overridden by at least 60 senators.

We need this kind of debate to happen to truly examine whether our wars are worth the sacrifices we make, whether those sacrifices are apparent in tragic injuries and death, or hidden in the budget shuffling that cuts important services while funding wars. Hopefully this legislation will bring us one step closer to understanding what we’re losing when we go to war.

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