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September 3, 2004

Kerry, Bush, and the $87 billion

Posted by Phil on September 3, 2004 9:51 AM

The Daily Howler has been harping on this as only the Howler can harp, but it bears repeating often, since this has become a favorite GOP laugh-line. The following is from the Washington Post article also in the LinkLog:

Kerry's vote last year against the administration's $87 billion proposal to fund troops in Iraq and pay for Iraqi reconstruction has also been the focus of Republican attacks. "My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor," Bush said last night.

Kerry actually supported all those things, but as part of a different version of the bill opposed by the administration. At the time, many Republicans were uncomfortable with the administration's plans and the White House had to threaten a veto against the congressional version to bring reluctant lawmakers in line.

In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground--"I support our troops in Iraq and their mission"--but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."

Yesterday, the State Department said that only $1 billion of that money has been spent in the 11 months since the bill was passed.

Kerry's issues with the bill that ultimately passed had to do with where the money would come from and where the $20 billion tacked on for "reconstruction" would go. Kerry and others wanted to repeal some tax cuts on the wealthy and/or loan the money against future Iraqi oil proceeds rather than tack the cost onto Bush's mounting deficit, and it was rightly disputed whether a bill providing much-needed materiel for our troops ought to be tied to carte-blanche cash for no-bid contracts awarded to cronies of the Bush administration.

However, Bush threatened to veto the bill that Kerry, Edwards, and others supported. He refused to sign a version that would cost him any of his tax cut and require advance explanation and oversight of the $20 billion for reconstruction. So the Republican majority made sure it was served up the president's way.

Reasonable people can argue that a bill providing aid and comfort to our troops should have been supported unanimously, and that Kerry and Edwards should have voted for the final version regardless of their disputes with it. Hell, you could even argue that Kerry was stinking up the primaries and needed to shore up his anti-war cred against Howard Dean.

But let's understand that Kerry's "No" vote had principle behind it, and that Kerry and Edwards did, indeed, support the funding for our troops before Bush forced passage of his version of the bill.

And let's also understand this: Bush threatened to veto a version of this bill, "this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor." One might even say that he voted against it before he voted for it.