REMARKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE, NOVEMBER 13, 2007, CONCERNING GEORGE BUSH'S VETO OF A CHILDREN'S HEALTH CARE BILL WITHIN DAYS OF REQUESTING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS MORE FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ
Last month, America was given a very stark and very sad look at the priorities of the Bush Administration. With bipartisan support, the United States Senate and House passed and sent to the White House a $35 billion dollar expansion of the S-CHIP program, to provide health care coverage to more children across our country. But telling the American public that we could not afford it, George Bush vetoed the legislation. This is the same George Bush who took a $236 billion dollar budget surplus from Bill Clinton and turned it into a six-year record of soaring budget deficits.
Yet just days after saying that we could not afford to give kids an additional $35 billion dollars worth of health insurance, Bush asked Congress for an additional $46 billion dollars in war spending for 2008. That money was on top of the $147 billion dollar request that he had already submitted to Congress for 2008. Almost all of the money would go toward the fighting in Iraq. That ruinous war is costing us about $2 billion per day.
So here is George Bush’s message to the children of America: We aren’t going to pay to keep you healthy. Instead, we’re going to spend the money to send other young people over to Iraq to get killed and horribly wounded.
It’s a message that we hear loud and clear in Pennsylvania. Regarding S-CHIP, our state will have to scale back our expected enrollment growth if this legislation is not enacted. Next year, we would be unable to cover 9,288 kids who otherwise would have health insurance. That number gradually grows, until by 2012, there will be 95,712 Pennsylvania children who will not be covered because of George Bush’s veto.
And concerning the killed and wounded, Pennsylvania pays a price there as well. So far in this war, 1,197 of our sons and daughters have been wounded, and another 175 have been killed. I will be mentioning two of them by name in a few minutes.
As he made the war funding request last month, Bush had the nerve to say that the money was necessary to “support our troops.”
The only meaningful way to support our troops after four and a half years of Bush’s foreign policy calamity is to bring them home, out of harm’s way. Most of America realizes that. A Washington-Post ABC news poll showed that a majority of Americans oppose fully funding Bush’s $190 billion dollar war request. Seventy percent want the proposed allocation reduced. The same poll showed that a sizeable majority, also seventy percent, support expansion of the children’s health insurance program.
Bush’s war hurts children in another respect, too. With all of the deficit spending it is causing, it will be our children and grandchildren who will have to pay the bill. No sooner had Bush increased his war funding request than the Congressional Budget Office came out with a new estimate on the cost of the war. Through the next decade, according to the CBO, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will carry a price tag of $2.4 trillion dollars. Of that, $1.9 trillion dollars is for Iraq.
And that is only the direct cost. It doesn’t count the care of our wounded veterans for years to come. As I described on this floor in March of last year, two highly respected economists – one from Harvard and the other a Nobel prize winner, estimated that you can added another trillion dollars to the direct cost.
As of the end of last month, the hard-dollar cost of the war so far has been $604 billion dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that is higher than the cost of either the Korean War or the Vietnam War, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. And still, there is no end in sight.
George Bush said a lot of things that weren’t true prior to the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, but one that people may have forgotten is this – that the war would cost no more than $50 billion dollars.
Much of what we are spending in Iraq may be waste. Military official said in September that $88 billion dollars worth of contracts for services in Iraq are currently being audited because of financial irregularities. One high-ranking Defense Department official told a House hearing that the military war-procurement system was in disarray.
Shay Assad, the director of defense procurement and acquisition policy said: “In a combat environment, we didn’t have the checks and balances we should have in place.”
While this goes on, Iraq continues to drain our military resources – that is a topic about which I will have more to say in the coming weeks. For now, I will simply point out that retired Army General Paul Eaton said last year that because of Iraq War spending, the Army had a $530 million dollar shortfall for its posts, so other facilities have gotten squeezed. That is just the tip of the iceberg of a much greater problem in the way this war is weakening our military, and thus jeopardizing our nation’s security.
And of course, most tragic of all, we continue to suffer the loss of our men and women in combat. As of the end of last week, there had been 3,860 American soldiers killed in Iraq. Another 28,451 had been wounded.
Among those killed earlier this year in Iraq were these two Pennsylvanians, whose memory I now ask you to honor:
Sergeant Russell A. Kurtz, 22, of Bethel Park, died in Fallujah on February 11 of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. Sergeant Kurtz was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Captain Todd M. Siebert, 34, of Baden, died February 16 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province. Captain Siebert was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Thank you, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo