House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls these votes to send troops into a war that many in her caucus campaigned to end the toughest of her speakership – votes of conscience. "We present the facts, and members make their own decision," she said after her visit to Afghanistan last month.
The last defense supplemental for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came just weeks into the new Obama administration in 2009, and House Democrats struggled to pass it. The president said it would be his last wartime supplemental and that future wartime spending would be on-budget.
But despite Republican support for the Obama strategy of a "surge" in Afghanistan, House GOP leaders in 2009 forced Democrats to find all but six of the votes for new war spending from within their own ranks. It could happen again.
In the first defense supplemental of the Obama administration, House Republicans objected to the $5 billion in funding for the International Monetary Fund in the bill and opposed it, 170 to 6. House Democrats struggled to find 39 votes from the 71-member Out-of-Iraq caucus to pass it, 226 to 202.
Now, GOP leaders are threatening to vote against President Obama's latest war funding request over objections to a $23 billion add-on to prevent more layoffs of teachers.
"If Democrats plan to load this up with a lot of extra spending on issues that don't relate to supporting our troops or true emergencies, like Haiti, I'd expect a lot of Republicans to oppose it," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner, last week.