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Top Democrats propose war surtax

  • Story Highlights
  • Top House Democrats propose a $140 to $150 billion surtax to pay for war in Iraq
  • Taxpayers would add 2 percent to tax bill, higher income families 12 to 15 percent
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes the measure
  • House GOP leader says the proposal is "playing politics" with national security
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top House Democrats Tuesday proposed a "war surtax" to pay for the war in Iraq, a plan quickly condemned by Republicans and opposed by the House leadership.

Rep. Dave Obey Tuesday said the surtax is a way for "this generation" to pay for the Iraq war.

The surtax would be "a percentage of your tax bill," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wisconsin. "And if you don't like the cost, then shut down the war."

The measure -- sponsored by Obey, Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, and Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts -- would require low- and middle-income taxpayers to add 2 percent to their tax bill, while higher-income taxpayers would add 12 to 15 percent, Obey said.

The House Democratic leadership made it clear Wednesday that they had not signed off on the measure.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, House speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted President Bush for not asking Americans to sacrifice and "adding hundreds of billions of dollars in debt for future generations to repay."

But Pelosi said she will not back the measure.

"Some have suggested that shared sacrifice should take the form of a draft; others have suggested a surtax. Those who oppose a tax and the draft also should oppose the president's war," Pelosi said. "Just as I have opposed the war from the outset, I am opposed to a draft and I am opposed to a war surtax."

A spokesman for the House Ways and Means committee, which handles all tax measures, told CNN "there's no expectation that this proposal will come before the committee."

The proposal comes as the Bush administration requested an additional $190 billion for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obey estimated the surtax would annually generate between $140 and $150 billion dollars which is equivalent to the annual cost of the war in Iraq. Video Watch Obey say he will not give the White House a blank check" »

"This is the first time in American history that when a president has taken a country to war and said 'by the way folks, we're going to have to sacrifice and the way to sacrifice is by cutting your taxes.'" Obey said. "It makes no sense."

Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference, McGovern said families of troops serving in Iraq would be exempt from the surtax, and that the tax was similar to ones imposed during War War II and the Vietnam War.

The Republican leadership was quick to condemn the proposal.

"Raiding every taxpayer's wallet for the purposes of playing politics with our national security amounts to one of the most irresponsible proposals I've seen in a long, long time," House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement. "It's time for Democrats to support our troops and the strategy that has led them to make undeniable progress in Iraq."

A Democratic leadership aide dismissed criticism from the GOP, saying, "Republicans are talking about something [surtax proposal] that's never going to see the light of day, but they're doing it at their own peril because the more they talk about the costs of war, the more Americans will listen."


Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said he agreed "this generation ought to help pay for" the war but that there was no agreement on backing the bill.

"One of the stories I just read said 'the Democrats propose,'" Hoyer said. "This is a proposal by Mr. Obey. Mr. Murtha and Mr. McGovern. This is not a party proposal." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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