Wednesday, 08 February 2023

Thompson criticizes Bush for spending bill veto

LAKE COUNTY – On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Thompson criticized President George W. Bush's Tuesday veto of an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war that included a timeline for withdrawing the troops.


Thompson's office issued a statement in which he said Bush's veto “signals his determination to keep this war going indefinitely.”


Bush's veto comes as a bill Thompson authored, which includes a similar call for a timed withdrawal, moves through Congress.


The veto also canceled emergency funds for rural areas like Lake County through an amendment to renew the county payments law, which funds counties based on historic timber receipts.


The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, HR 1591, passed the House on a narrow 110 to 60 vote in March, as Lake County News previously reported. A Senate version of the bill also passed, before ultimately going to the president's desk this week, where it was vetoed.


The bill included increased funding for military and veterans' health care, allocations to improve the readiness of stateside troops and military housing allowances.


However, it also called for withdrawing US troops by Aug. 31, 2008.


Because of the timeline aspect, President Bush had said for months he would veto the bill, which Thompson and others in Congress knew early on.


Although this wasn't the bill he wanted, Thompson said in March he and others in Congress who were against emergency supplementals supported it, calling it “the most responsible bill we could have passed given the divisions in this very diverse Congress.”


Thompson's statement noted that even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that a timeline such as was included in HR 1591 “communicates to the Iraqi government that this is not an open-ended commitment.”


“Our troops have done what we sent them to do,” Thompson stated. “It's now time for the Iraqis to bring peace to their country. We need to show the Iraqi government that we're serious about the benchmarks we've set for them. Just asking them to meet the benchmarks hasn't worked for four years. This bill sets a realistic timeline for making progress in Iraq."


Thompson also took issue with Bush's criticism of domestic emergency aid that was included in the bill, including money to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, aid to farmers who suffered agriculture disasters, and fund schools and roads.


Included in the Senate version of the bill was an amendment to restore funding to an updated version of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, commonly known as the county payments law, according to the office of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the authors of the amendment and the original bill.


California's most recent allocation from the bill was $68 million, of which $1 million came to Lake County. That $1 million, in turn, was divided between the county's road department and area schools, with about $240,000 going to Upper Lake's high school and elementary school, according to the Lake County Office of Education.


Thompson said the bill isn't “pork,” but is meant to offer emergency aid. He added that Bush should put funding requests for the war through the annual budget process, where they belong.


“He has sought to hide the true costs of the war by continuing to use emergency supplemental funding bills, while criticizing the emergency domestic funding the supplemental should be used for,” Thompson said.


The bill also would have included help for those in Northern California affected by the decision to divert water for salmon, which not only resulted in killing salmon but taking away income from thousands of families, Thompson said.


Other funds would have helped fund the county's veterans facilities, including Walter Reed Hospital. Last week, Thompson said he visited the hospital, which he said he's done regularly since the war began. “I met a soldier who had traveled 300 miles for his 14th surgery because he couldn't get adequate care at his local veteran's hospital.”


The veto of HR 1591 doesn't bode well for a bill Thompson introduced earlier this year, HR 787, the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007, which also includes a timeline for withdrawal.


In fact, Thompson's bill calls for the troops to be brought home by March 31, 2008, months earlier than HR 1591's provisions. Sen. Barack Obama's SB 433 is the companion to Thompson's bill.


Many of HR 787's provisions were included either directly or in modified form in HR 1591, said Anne Warden, Thompson's spokesperson.


Is Thompson concerned that if his bill passes Congress, it, too, will ultimately die on the president's desk?


No, said Warden.


“His bill is helping to continue the pressure on the president, and we're going to keep that pressure on until we have a plan for ending the war,” she said. “The party is in line with that thinking and Rep. Thompson is going to continue pushing his bill as meaningful plan for Iraq.”


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


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