Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing On Priorities In The President’s Request For Supplemental Appropriations For Iraq Witness: White House Office Of Management And Budget Director Jim Nussle

A Blank Check For Iraqi Police, But Deep Cuts For U.S. Law Enforcement Leahy Grills WH Budget Director On Iraq v. U.S. Priorities In The President's Supplemental Budget Request

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, March 25, 2008) - Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Wednesday questioned White House Budget Director Jim Nussle about tradeoffs between U.S. domestic budget priorities and the tens of billions more for the Iraq War that the President is now asking Congress to approve in the current supplemental Appropriations request. Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, focused especially on the President’s proposed cuts in support for local and state law enforcement departments and for crime victims. Audio and video of Leahy’s statement and questioning of Nussle are available below.  Leahy’s prepared remarks are also included.


We have spent roughly $700 billion for the global war on terrorism, and the President’s latest supplemental request would increase that by roughly $108 billion.  Overall cost of the Iraq War will soon exceed an incredible one trillion dollars, which will go directly onto the national debt, to be paid by the next generation.

Budgets are expressions of a government’s real priorities, and the Bush Administration has consistently shown that its real priorities are in Iraq, not here at home.  The President and his supporters in Congress find no inconsistency as every few months they demand billions for Iraq – the biggest presidential earmark of all time – even while here at home health care, education, housing, security, infrastructure, and heating needs are shoved aside.

I am not saying that we should not be helping Iraq rebuild.  As chairman of the subcommittee that handles the Senate’s work in drafting the budget for foreign assistance, I know the need for funds for stabilization and reconstruction programs in Iraq.  But I also believe it is time we require the Iraq Government to begin contributing a portion of rebuilding costs, especially when, with the increase in the price of oil, Iraq is expected to end the year with a budget surplus of $25 billion.

I hear every day from Vermonters struggling to make decisions between putting food on the table and heating their homes, even while food prices continue to rise and oil hits an all-time high of $114 a barrel.  We in Congress know what they are going through and many of us are trying to help them, but again we find our hands tied, as the President says he will veto any supplemental spending bill that goes a dollar over his request – except, of course, for the open checkbook he demands for spending in Iraq.

This war has cost Americans far too much – too much money, too much damage to our alliances and influence around the world, and, most importantly, too much death and too many maimed soldiers coming home.  We need a clear change of course in our priorities, and that means also in our budget priorities.


State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grants


Violent crime here at home has been rising, but the Administration has dismantled front-line support for state and local law enforcement here at home.  Compare this with the Administration’s view that no expense is too large for the hiring and equipment needs of the Iraqi police force, on which we have spent nearly $21 billion, with questionable results.


It’s a different story for our own police departments, which have been stretched thin for years as they shoulder both traditional crime fighting duties and new homeland security demands.  In what we spend in just five days on the Iraq War, we could fully fund the COPS Program at $1.15 billion and Byrne/ Justice Assistance Grants at $1.095 billion.  That alone would put 9,000 new police officers on the beat to make our communities safer, and it would allow us to shore up our multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task force efforts.  And during this National Crime Victims Week, I would ask the Bush Administration to reflect on what its proposed cuts to the Crime Victims Fund will mean to crime victims across this nation.


It is past time for this Administration to cooperate with Congress and to get the real priorities of the American people straight.  How about if we start by asking Iraq to shoulder part of the burden of its own law enforcement needs?  After all, the major revenue source for the Iraqi government is oil, which has risen dramatically over the past year to more than $114 a barrel.  Unlike us, the Iraqi government actually is running a budget surplus!  For a tiny fraction of the money we spend each year on the Iraq War, we could make our own towns and cities safer in practical, proven and successful ways.  Instead, the Bush Administration sends us a 2009 budget that cuts the help to state and local law enforcement agencies by $1.6 billion – that is a staggering 64 percent.


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