Senior House Democrats have introduced legislation that would impose a surtax beginning in 2011 to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill was unveiled late Thursday by David R. Obey of Wisconsin, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and has the backing of John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and John B. Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
"For the last year, as we've struggled to pass health care reform, we've been told that we have to pay for the bill -- and the cost over the next decade will be about a trillion dollars," the three lawmakers said in a joint statement. "Now the president is being asked to consider an enlarged counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, which proponents tell us will take at least a decade and would also cost about a trillion dollars. But unlike the health care bill, that would not be paid for. We believe that's wrong."
Discussing the idea earlier this month, Murtha said he knew the bill would not be enacted and that advocates of a surtax were simply trying to send a message about the moral obligation to pay for the wars.
"The only people who've paid any price for our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are our military families," Murtha, Obey and Larson said in a joint statement. "We believe that if this war is to be fought, it's only fair that everyone share the burden."
The bill would require the president to set the surtax so that it fully pays for the previous year's war cost. But it would allow for a one-year delay in the implementation of the tax if the president determines that the economy is too weak to sustain that kind of tax change. It also would exempt military members who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, along with their families, and the families of soldiers killed in combat.