Sanders defends vote against Iraqi aid bill

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(Host) Early Friday morning, Congressman Bernie Sanders voted against the $87 billion Iraqi aid package. He said there are too many needs in the U.S. to spend that amount of aid abroad. But the chairman of the Republican Party in Vermont described Sanders’ position as a vote against American troops in Iraq. Sanders says the charge is ridiculous.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Iraqi aid package contains roughly $65 billion to support U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly $20 billion to help rebuild Iraq. At the insistence of President Bush, the final legislation allocates all of the money as grants to Iraq; some members of Congress wanted to structure half of the reconstruction package as a loan.

GOP state chairman Jim Barnett says Sanders’ vote is more than just a vote opposing the war in Iraq:

(Barnett) “There’s no doubt that with this vote that Congressman Sanders has let our troops down. No matter what you think of the war, I think we all agree that we need to support our troops. And with 75% of that $87 billion going to help our troops, provide them benefits and pay, this vote is a vote not against the war, this is a vote against our troops.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he voted against the bill because the president hasn’t tried to enlist the support of the United Nations in sharing the military and financial burden in post-war Iraq. He bristles at the charge that he’s not supporting U.S. troops.

(Sanders) “That’s absolute nonsense. We’re fighting as hard as we can for the troops – the real way. I think to support out troops is to make sure that other countries participate in the rebuilding of Iraq, to make sure that there are troops from around the world and not just American troops who are being shot at in Iraq. No I support the troops completely.”

(Kinzel) The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration. That vote is expected early next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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