15 November 2006

The Priorities of John Murtha 1994 Edition

The Government Printing Office has all sorts of wonderful and searchable records on Congress back to 1994, and so I will give you some absolute gems from then that really do need to see the light of day. So I will be taking relevant text in as much context as I can give it so that the nature of the debate and concepts is put forth. Highlighting and bolding will be mine, of course, as Congress does not do that.

Like this number from the debate on an amendment to this bill: [Congressional Record: June 27, 1994] DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE, JUSTICE, AND STATE, THE JUDICIARY, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 1995, AND SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS, 1994

In which the following Amendment is put forth:

Mr. ROGERS. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment. The Clerk read as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Rogers: At the end of the bill, add the following new title:

Title VIII--Additional General Provisions, Transferring Funds From International Peacekeeping Payments to U.N. to Reimbursement to States for Costs of Incarcerating Illegal Aliens and Community Policing at Home Sec. 801. Notwithstanding any other provision in this Act, the accounts ``Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities'' for fiscal year 1995 and the additional amount for ``Contributions for International Peacekeeping Operations'' for fiscal year 1994 in this Act are hereby reduced by $94,732,000 and $119,013,000 respectively and of those amounts, $87,500,000 are hereby transferred to reimburse states for fiscal year 1995 for costs of incarcerating illegal aliens as authorized by section 501 of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1365) and $119,000,000 to programs for fiscal year 1994 authorized by Chapter A of subpart 2 of part E of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as amended, for an aggregate reduction of $7,245,000 in the amounts otherwise provided by this Act for fiscal years 1994 and 1995.
Now here is a simple idea of taking some few millions out of Peacekeeping funds to the UN and spending it on imprisoning illegal immigrants who are, well, disturbing the peace by not respecting the International Border between the US and Mexico, and sometimes Canada. This one is pretty simple, no? But the opposition to this arises and the spokesman represents Mr. Murtha's position as he has also signed up to have this fellow as spokesman for the position:
Mr. PENNY. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today in opposition to the amendment to reduce funding for U.N. peacekeeping programs. I often stand on this floor to propose budget cutting propositions. In this case, however, I strongly urge Members to support the request of the President for regular and supplemental appropriations for the U.N. peacekeeping efforts.

I am joined in this request by the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Murtha, the gentleman from Washington, Mr. Dicks, the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Montgomery, the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Stenholm, and other conservative Democrats who are concerned about America's national security interests as well as a responsible budget.

I ask Members to consider the following facts:

First, the supplemental appropriation for peacekeeping efforts in fiscal year 1994 is totally within the budget caps established in the fiscal year 1994 budget resolution.

Second, the United States is currently contributing about 900 troops compared to about 7,500 for Pakistan and 6,000 from India. Clearly when it comes to troops, we are not shouldering an unfair burden.

Finally, 82 percent of the current amount which the United States owes the United Nations is directly related to the 12 operations approved by the Bush administration. We could have as a member of the Security Council vetoed those decisions. We did not veto them, we supported them, and we must now honor our obligations.
Ah, the Priorities of Mr. Murtha! The reasoning behind not taking money from the UN, in which the US already supports an undue share amongst all members, is that the UN needs MORE MONEY from the US. In other words: OUR MONEY.

Then there is the comparison that the US is not 'picking up the slack of its commitments'. That may be true, but we are overpulling and over-'picking up the slack' on FUNDING ALREADY. Perhaps in this era of Clinton downsizing we really could not support the Powell Doctrine of fighting two regional wars simultaneously AND every little peace-keeping mission that is on the planet. And remember in just a few months, come October, Mr. Murtha would then vote on giving Mr. Clinton a blank check to do whatever he wanted... in Haiti. But that would only be after voting to limit any aid to Rwanda which had just gone through a GENOCIDE because he was worried about *mission creep*.

But on the plus side, Mr. Murtha does support military pay, readiness and healthcare as seen in the following rising first against the Johnson Amendment and then against the Castle Amendment: [Congressional Record: August 17, 1994] EMERGENCY SPENDING CONTROL ACT OF 1994

First the Johnson Amendment:
For instance, if you were to reduce the defense budget by $5.7 billion, which is half of the 1994 emergency disaster appropriation, there would be a 2.4-percent across-the-board reduction for defense assuming you applied it uniformly. This would eliminate the entire pay raise for the troops.

Now, why did I pick the pay raise? Because the Pentagon did not allow for that in their budget because they said that was not something that needed to be done. Well, I disagree with that. I think a pay raise is absolutely imperative for the welfare and morale of our troops and we included it in our recent bill.

Our troops right now are deployed more often than they have been in years. They are worn out, frustrated. I just visited Guantanamo, and a number of them are going to get out because they spend too much time away from home.

So the first thing that would go is the pay raise for the troops.

Next, the readiness enhancement voted by the House would be totally eliminated.

What I did in the budget that we sent over to the other body was decrease some of the long-term programs and increase the amount of readiness. For instance, there is a $12 billion backlog in defense for real property maintenance. There is a $2 billion backlog for depot maintenance. Both of these are absolutely essential to the readiness and quality of life of our troops.

Under this Johnson amendment we would also have to cut the medical care for 205,000 personnel if the reduction was applied across the board.

Now, why do I mention the medical program? I will tell you why. For 7 years I personally have taken an interest in trying to improve the medical quality of life, the medical care for the military. In the military, one of the first things they cut when they start to cut the budget is the medical personnel available to active-duty dependents. That is a mistake because it reduces the quality of life.

Recently I went to Camp Lejeune, where they were waiting 5 hours to see a doctor. That is a practical impact of what we are doing in making these kinds of cuts.

So there is no way that I can support this kind of a cut, because it has such a dramatic impact on our national security.

Now, I could not agree more that they should come to the Congress to ask for supplemental money for operations such as Rwanda. But I doubt very much that this Congress would turn down the President on money for Rwanda. I certainly know we would not turn down money for hurricane Hugo, the flood disaster that happened down there. I know he would not turn down the money, Congress would not turn down the money for Los Angeles where the earthquake occurred. Nor should he.
And then the Castle Amendment:
All of us would like to see a fund set aside for emergencies. But if we take an across-the-board cut for such a fund, it would amount to perhaps $5 to $6 billion out of defense. What are the things that would be cut? The first thing would be pay. Why do I pick out pay? The Pentagon this year did not send a pay raise down to us. The Congress had to insist on it and rightly so. It is something that the troops deserved. They are deployed away from home more often. They are away from their families, and it is something that certainly they deserve. The raise we included was not adequate, but at least it was a little bit to help out.

The second thing to be cut by this proposal would be medical care for the families and for the people in the service. I have taken a personal interest in trying to increase the quality of medical care for the people in the military.

The other thing that would be depleted, reduced, is the readiness of our American Forces. We right now have a backlog of real property maintenance, a backlog of $12 billion. We have a backlog of $2 billion in depot maintenance. These are the accounts for maintaining war- fighting facilities and equipment used by our military. They are the heart of readiness for the military. If we take another $5 to $6 billion across the board from the military, those are the programs that would have to be reduced in order to get the money to make the expenditures for day-to-day operations to keep the military going.

An extremely high percentage of our military budget is for personnel costs. So they have fewer places to get funds for reductions. Our readiness would be affected by this amendment. With this amendment the way it works we can say we are going to look someplace other than defense, but 50 percent of the discretionary money in the budget is for the military. So there is no place else to look. We have to be realistic and practical about this. If we are going to offer an amendment like this, it is going to affect the military. We cannot afford any cuts in the military.

We cannot afford any cuts in the military because it will affect readiness dramatically.

Now both of those are interesting as he does put forth on the military expenditures and how it is worth paying the troops more and such like. But, here is the question: what WAR were we fighting in 1994 that so wearied the troops? I mean the troops are so worn out we must be facing a REAL enemy somewhere that is threatening the Nation and driving us to the brink of military collapse.

Just where was that fire, in 1994? It wasn't against terrorists, that's for damned sure, as the entire WTC Bombing of 1993 turned into a 'police investigation' for something that is an Act of War.

No, what we had were a whole bunch of 'odd-jobs' peace-keeping missions all over the place. And the President and Congress were not even properly funding for PEACE TIME WORK OF THE MILITARY. Perhaps a few of these 'discretionary' peace keeping missions should have been tabled, no?

But the worst part of all of this is here, in August of 1994, with the Rwandan genocide just becoming public knowledge, Mr. Murtha puts forth from the above:
"But I doubt very much that this Congress would turn down the President on money for Rwanda."
While in October he, personally, voted AGAINST THAT. It might turn into a 'quagmire'.

So to Mr. Murtha we now have some priorities in 1994:

1) Give funding to the UN and lobby for more US peacekeepers after the US already disproportionately pays its way there. Further, more money to the UN is better spent than securing the borders and imprisoning illegal aliens at home. And the US pays 82% of the actual PEACEKEEPING budget for those we support. Exactly HOW MANY MEMBERS does the UN *have*?

2) Run away from Genocide as it may have some 'mission creep' to it. Possibly some 'quagmire' attached to it. Say brave and profound things in August and then backtrack when it comes to brass tacks in October.

3) Haiti deserves an open-ended commitment and he supports that while others in his party did NOT. And, of course, Haiti is so much more important than helping out in the aftermath of a genocide now, isn't it?

4) While Mr. Murtha does 'support the troops' he also sees nothing wrong in CAUSING the very weariness by not only supporting the current peacekeeping missions but wanting to ADD MORE OF THEM to an already 'weary military'.

What a sweet fellow this John Murtha is!

Genocide: he supported helping out before he was against it.

Haiti: do nothing and let the President tell you a THIRD TIME what he is going to do, and then probably ask to be told again. But the blank check is the way to go!

Peacekeeping: it is ruining the troops so lets do MORE OF IT!

Thank you, Mr. Murtha, for making your positions abundantly clear through the Congressional Record.

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