Internal Divisions: GOP Infightin Over Budgets and Spending
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KWAME HOLMAN: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner has held three high-profile public hearings over the past two weeks in an effort, he said, to get the facts out on the Iraqi detainee abuse scandal. But early this week, Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, chided Warner for focusing too heavily on the abuse issue, and for calling in military leaders who would have to travel from Iraq to testify.
“We’ve got 135,000 kids over there that need leadership,” Hunter said, “and their leadership can’t be dragged back to Washington every couple of days.” Hunter was speaking of Gen. John Abizaid, who oversees military operations in the Middle East; Gen. Richard Sanchez, the military commander in Iraq; and Gen. Geoffrey Miller, now responsible for the Abu Gharib prison. But Warner responded, making it clear that he had suggested efforts would be made to allow the generals to testify from Iraq, he read from a letter he wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: “Given that some witnesses may need to remain in Iraq for operational reasons, we are open to exploring the option of video teleconferences for some of the hearings.” It’s all laid out very clearly in here.
KWAME HOLMAN: As it turned out, all three generals happened to be in Washington anyway when the chairman called them to testify on Wednesday, and Warner had nothing more to say about it.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: I have no comment as to what Duncan Hunter said.
KWAME HOLMAN: But today Hunter added this comment:
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Well, perhaps we haven’t had as many cameras or because we haven’t done as many open hearings as they have in the other body. On the other hand, we provided for the $500 million replenishment for helicopters because we were doing our job and doing our work.
KWAME HOLMAN: But there was another Republican-on-Republican dust-up at the capitol this week, over attempts by Republican leaders to pass their budget resolution.
SPOKESMAN: The resolution is adopted.
KWAME HOLMAN: The House did pass it on Wednesday, but only barely, as nine Republicans bucked the party-line and joined every democrat in voting against it. However the G.O.P.’s majority in the Senate is even thinner, and four Republicans there– Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and John McCain of Arizona– all steadfastly have refused to support the budget unless it includes strict rules to make it harder for Congress to add to the budget deficit. During a speech Tuesday at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, McCain made his feelings clear.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The current version of the Republican Party is engaged in an outrageous spending binge. My friends, we are at war. Tell me one time in the history of this country when this nation is at war when we’ve enact tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest. The only the only sacrifice taking place is that by the brave men and women fighting to defend and protect the liberties we hold so dear, and that of their families. It is time for others to step up and start sacrificing.
KWAME HOLMAN: The next day, Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, responded to McCain’s attack on his fellow Republicans.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT: If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital. There’s the sacrifice in this country.
KWAME HOLMAN: Hastert also criticized McCain’s decision to oppose extending a series of republican-driven tax cuts unless they are paid for.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT: We’re trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it, and at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically.
KWAME HOLMAN: McCain responded with this statement. “The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops…All we are called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently, those days long gone for some in our party.”
KWAME HOLMAN: At the White House yesterday, the president’s spokesman Scott McClellan tried to make light of the feud between speaker Hastert and Senator McCain.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to get between someone who has a history in wrestling and someone who has a history in combat. ( Laughter )
KWAME HOLMAN: The president himself stayed out of it, making no mention of the feud during his visit to the capitol yesterday. He was there was to bolster confidence among republicans in his Iraq policy. The president reportedly took no questions from members during his meeting, but party leaders described it as a successful visit.
REP. DEBORAH PRYCE: He said that this is war and this is the theater of war and that this is part of war, and that we all need to be braced for it, but our resolve is none lessened by it.
KWAME HOLMAN: And shortly after the president left, the House approved a record $422 billion defense spending bill which included money for Iraq. However, Republicans, in direct opposition to the president, attached to the bill a two-year delay in the next round of domestic military base closings. A white house statement indicates the house action could prompt a veto by the president.