Saturday, 18 May 2024

Thompson: Bill will help bring troops home, support vets

WASHINGTON, D.C. A bill meant to provide greater protection for U.S. soldiers and veterans passed the House of Representatives in a narrow vote Friday.

The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, HR 1591, passed the House 110 to 60.

Introduced by Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, it includes increased funding for military and veterans' health care – including Walter Reed and other hospitals – allocations to improve the readiness of stateside troops and military housing allowances.

The bill also re-focuses efforts to fight terrorism on al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan by providing more funds for operations Afghanistan.

North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson said Friday that he and many other House members who have been opposed to the war approved this emergency supplemental bill.

That's because, besides showing support for the military, it also sets deadlines fore redeployment based on “firm benchmarks” for both the Bush Administration and Iraqi government, Thompson said.

It's the first time, said Thompson, that the administration and Iraqi government have been held accountable during the four years of the war.

The bill also sets a timeline for redeployment of US troops, Thompson said, with final redeployment required to begin by March 1, 2008, and be completed by Aug. 31, 2008.

President Bush has promised to veto the bill, said Thompson. “Notwithstanding his veto threat, I think it was an important bill to pass,” he said.

“This was probably the most responsible bill we could have passed given the divisions in this very diverse Congress,” said Thompson.

In the past, Thompson said the president has gotten “absolutely everything he's wanted” in supplemental bills to fund the war effort. This bill and this vote, he said, “is a pretty strong statement” that times are changing, and that Congress plans to change course.

Thompson said he's voted against such supplementals previously, but HR 1591's benchmarks and timeline makes it “a huge departure from what we've seen in the past.”

He said he thinks it's the best way to get troops home as safely and quickly as possible. It's also necessary to improve health care for soldiers and veterans, issues brought to the front in recent weeks following a scandal at Walter Reed Hospital.

“Everybody knew how important it was to pass this,” Thompson said.

However, his stated support for the bill resulted in his office being visited by protesters.

He said he spoke with the protesters regarding their concerns, and came to some consensus. “I think we agree the tragedy of the Iraq War is just monumental.”

At the same time, he said, “We disagree on the best way to get our troops home.”

A companion bill for HR 1591 must pass the Senate next, said Thompson.

Thompson has a bill of his own, HR 787, that sets a March 31, 2008, timeline for bringing troops home. That bill, the Iraq War Accountability Act, is the companion bill to Senate Bill 433, introduced by Sen. Barack Obama.

HR 787, which now has 60 co-sponsors, went into committee hearings on Tuesday, said Thompson, where it received “a fair and impartial hearing.”

Thompson said he felt the bill was received well by the committee. “I'm hopeful that it will carry some weight in helping to define where we go from here.”

He added, “I think it's one of the most viable bills out there.”

Thompson will be in the county today to host his annual ravioli feed at the Lake County Fairgrounds.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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