WASHINGTON — This week featured a “district work period” for the House of Representatives, so no votes were taken in the lower chamber. On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., published a piece on the Huffington Post website calling for the speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“Our national security demands that we continue to root out al Qaeda, wherever in the world they may hide — not that we engage in an ambitious nation-building exercise in Afghanistan,” Merkley wrote. “After nearly ten years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, we should safely and expeditiously end our war in Afghanistan, start a sizeable and sustained withdrawal of our troops next month with a goal of ending the combat and nation-building mission as soon as possible, and use the hundreds of billions of dollars in savings to reduce the deficit and make smart investments here at home.”

Merkley is soliciting signatures for a letter he and Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Mark Udall, D-Colo., intend to submit to President Obama, urging him to initiate a “sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.”

“Endemic corruption in Afghanistan diverts resources intended to build roads, schools, and clinics, and some of these funds end up in the hands of the insurgents,” the letter states. “Appointments of provincial and local officials on the basis of personal alliances and graft leads to deep mistrust by the Afghan population. While it is a laudable objective to attempt to build new civic institutions in Afghanistan, this goal does not justify the loss of American lives or the investment of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.”

As of Thursday, 16 senators, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had signed the letter.

The Senate also discussed the Economic Development Revitalization Act, which would increase funding for the Economic Development Administration. Wyden spoke on the Senate floor Thursday, saying that EDA could help the nanotechnology industry create high-paying jobs in America.

“Federal efforts can support private sector initiatives in the nanotechnology field and together leverage U.S. advantages in innovation and technology and particularly facilitate job growth,” he said. “America is in a fight for the future of nanotechnology. We are seeing China and a lot of our global competitors making major investments in this area. Our private sector is stepping up, but we ought to have the government partner as well. That is why EDA’s support of nanotechnology and the innovation economy is so critical. They have partnered with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to promote innovative approaches in health and science.”

– Andrew Clevenger, The Bulletin