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Nolan's first legislative foray: Ending the war in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan co-sponsored his first bill of the new Congress on Tuesday, looking to bring an end the decade-old war in Afghanistan.

Nolan sponsored the "Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act", which looks to bring American troops home from Afghanistan, end funding for the war effort there and invest the savings in American infrastructure.

“I was very opposed and actively engaged in opposition to the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan,” Nolan, a Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday. “So this is more or less a fulfillment of one of my reasons for being here and rationales for running for the Congress. I think it's time we stop building infrastructure in places like Afghanistan and start rebuilding America.”

The bill was introduced two weeks ago and has about 20 co-sponsors, including Rep. Keith Ellison. It garnered 72 backers last session, when it stalled in committee.

President Obama has long targeted a 2014 end date to the war, and after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week, he said American troops will begin playing a supporting role to Afghan forces as early as this spring. But Nolan said Congress should accelerate that timeline.

“I’ve been in disagreement with the president on this from the very beginning, although I am pleased he’s finally come to the realization that we have to bring our troops home,” he said. “But once you’ve made this decision, bring them home. Don’t leave them in harm’s way.”

In 2012, 321 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, down from 418 the year before. Since 2001, the war has claimed 2,175 American lives.

The Afghanistan legislation is the first Nolan has co-sponsored this session, his second stint in the House and his first in 32 years. He plans to introduce his first bill sometime this month — an elections reform package containing a constitutional amendment giving Congress regulatory power over election issues, a provision requiring additional transparency from big spending political action committees and a public financing system for elections.

Campaign finance and ending the war in Afghanistan were key components of Nolan's platform during his congressional run last year. Both face significant obstacles to passage this session.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

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