Democratic congressional disarray, symbolized by the sudden resignation of longtime incumbent David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, could weaken anti-war forces at a critical moment in the Afghanistan funding debate. Obey last year vowed to give President Obama's policy in Afghanistan one year to succeed before being reined in by Congress.
If seniority holds, Obey will be replaced as chairman by Rep. Norm Dicks [D-Wash], whose biography describes him as a "moderate" supporter of the military on national security issues. Dicks was one of 81 House members who voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002. He also voted for the FISA wiretap language providing immunity to ATT, Verizon and others. He has not signed on as a co-sponsor to McGovern's HR 2404, or McGovern-Feingold's HR 5015/S. 3197 (Afghanistan exit strategy resolutions), or Barbara Lee's HR 3699, which would prohibit a troop increase to Afghanistan. As recently as this March, he was in Pakistan lauding military operations in the Swat valley and South Waziristan.
It remains to be seen whether Obey will use his final year to take a strong stand against funding for Afghanistan. He was elected on an anti-Vietnam platform in 1969, at a time when the tide of popular antiwar passion was beginning to push progressive pragmatists into national office. Obey could return to his roots, or pass the gavel to a more hawkish chairman.