In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, here is what the recently passed appropriations bill does. Many of these are items Democrats have been struggling to get for years. The difference between us and them? It couldn't be any clearer. The GOP caved in to Democrats in order to fund Iraq for another 6 months. The Republicans capitulated, as shown:
Care for Veterans and Wounded Service Members
$1.78 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs that was not in President's request, including:
• $100 million for enhancements to mental health services.
• $595 million to improve and maintain VA facilities.
• $229 million to cover previous VA funding shortfalls.
• $60.75 million for expenses related to hiring and training additional disability claims processors.
• $25 million for prosthetics.
• $20 million for disability medical examinations.
$3 billion for the Department of Defense - $1.9 billion more than the President's request - for treating service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, including:
• $900 million for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment and research.
• $20 million to repair facilities at Walter Reed.
$190 million for the Department of Homeland Security to improve port security - the President included no funding for port security. The port security funding includes:
• Up to $75 million to implement Senator Murray's SAFE Ports Act including hiring additional Customs officers, improving the ability to scan cargo containers overseas, and purchasing additional X-ray and radiation detection equipment.
• $110 million for port security grants that are part of Murray's SAFE Ports Act.
• $5 million for the Port of Tacoma Intermodal Radiation Detection Test Center that Sen. Murray announced on May 11.
Hurricane Katrina Relief
$6.4 billion to rebuild the Gulf Coast and help the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Storm and Flood Damaged Roads
$39.4 million for Washington state roads damaged during storms last year.
$3 billion to help relieve the enormous pressure on farmers and ranchers as a result of severe drought and agricultural disasters.
Children's Health Care
$650 million in emergency funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
$153 million for flood control across the country. Includes funds to repair damaged levees in King, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom, and Lincoln counties.
Restores $4 million in funding to the Office of Women's Health.
Secure Rural Schools
Includes a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program which provides over $40 million dollars to rural Washington counties each year.
Asbestos in US Capitol Tunnels
Includes $50 million for utility tunnel repair and asbestos abatement. Senator Murray successfully pushed for U.S. Capitol tunnel workers to be removed from the tunnels below the Capitol because they were being exposed to deadly asbestos.
Raises the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour -- the first increase in nine years - and provides millions of hard-working Americans a real chance to provide for their families.
So I have some questions.
While all of the items mentioned above are truly worthy of our support, is it the right thing for Democrats to do to place these items; in particular the Domestic Spending items, in an appropriations bill marked “Emergency Supplemental?” I wonder about even the additional monies for veterans care and Walter Reed cleanup and repair. Shouldn’t these items be important enough to warrant their own bills?
If you believe that these items are critical enough to be placed on a bill that was designed to provide “emergency funding” for the troops in the field, is their passage enough to make you satisfied that the “timelines for withdrawal” of troops and any effort at “binding language” with regard to the “benchmarks” were removed from (in fact, not even allowed to be introduced in to) the final bill?
Now my friend tells me that the Republicans are the ones who “caved in to the Democrats” just so they could fund six more months of Iraq. Considering that the Democrats; with the help of a handful of moderate Republicans, already passed all of this before (plus timelines for withdrawal) in the bill that Bush just vetoed, do you think that the Republicans really “caved” on this?
As much as I am pleased with the funding that is mentioned above, I consider it “Diversionary Spending.” Spending on otherwise worthwhile issues intended to take my eyes off the failure of the new Democratic Majority to exhibit a spine for longer than a month. From failing to stop the escalation of forces into Iraq (and allowing Bush to explain it as a “surge”) to failing to make more than one effort at exercising their Congressional Obligation to declare, un-declare, fund, or de-fund a military action, the Democrats have left many of us to wonder whether the work in November was worth it. We are told to wait until September when another appropriations bill comes up for a vote. Unless I misread my calendar, there is not another congressional election until 2008; which means that the Democrats will still not have a two-thirds majority in the Congress in September. But, of course, by then there will be whole new issues worthy of even more diversionary spending.
Chad (The Left) Shue