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Ben Nelson Floats Paying for Afghanistan Surge with War Bonds

(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET with comments from Sen. Carl Levin on a war supplemental.

Anticipating the increased troop levels in Afghanistan President Obama is expected to announce tonight, lawmakers are floating various ways to pay for the ongoing war.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) today suggested the idea of selling war bonds to pay for sending troops to Afghanistan, reports CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen.

"Some people jumped right out and said you need a war tax, and I said wow, we didn't have a war tax in the Second World War," Nelson said. "The fact that we had bonds, war bonds, and people invested in their country in that fashion made a lot of sense back then. I don't know why it might not make sense today, certainly in lieu of jumping to tax."

Rep. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has called for a tax on the rich to help pay for the troop increase, but the idea has been dismissed by some as politically infeasible.

The federal government sold war bonds during World War II, using celebrities and radio campaigns to persuade people to buy them to finance the war effort. Hundreds of millions of bonds were issued -- and in fact, many were unclaimed. The government is currently sitting on $17 billion in unclaimed war bonds, the Washington Post reports.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today he thinks Congress will have to pass a war supplemental bill, though he does not think there will be a vote on one this year, Nolen reports. Levin also dismissed the idea of a war tax.

"I don't think any tax increase in the middle of a recession -- except a tax on the upper income bracket, which has done so very, very well, even in the middle of a recession -- can happen," he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said today that a war surtax is unnecessary, Nolen reports. Instead, McCain said, the government could simply put an end topork barrel spending and earmarks. That would amount to about $60 billion from this year's appropriations bills, McCain said.

More Coverage of Obama's Speech:

Washington Unplugged: Afghanistan In-Depth
Obama Outline to Include 2012 Endgame
Obama Speech Is First "Address to the Nation"
NATO: Obama Wants up to 10,000 Soldiers
Afghan Plan Revives Nation-Building Debate
Spokesman Robert Gibbs on Afghanistan: Not Nation-Building
Cheney: Obama Showing "Weakness" to Adversaries
Polling Analysis: Afghanistan 2009 Vs. Iraq 2007 Special Report: Afghanistan

You can watch the speech on your CBS station at 8 p.m. ET or online at

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