Welch says he’ll oppose president’s war funding

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Congressman Peter Welch says he’s appalled that the Bush Administration is threatening to veto legislation expanding children’s health care programs at the same time that it’s asking Congress to spend an additional 189 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Welch says he’ll definitely vote against the new funding request for the war.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) During the 2007 fiscal year, the Bush Administration requested, and Congress ultimately approved, 90 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the Administration seeking more than twice that amount for the fiscal year that begins on October first.

Congressman Peter Welch says he’s concerned that the President is threatening to veto several key domestic spending programs, including a plan to expand health care for children, because they’re too expensive, while supporting more money for the war in Iraq.

(Welch) "That’s a very clear statement of where the President is on his priorities and, frankly, I think we have an obligation in Congress to tell Vermonters and the American people where we are on priorities."

(Kinzel) Welch says there’s no doubt that he’ll vote against the new war budget spending request.

(Welch)"The President is giving us no options because what he is asking really is a blank check. It’s not just an unlimited and unaffordable amount of money with him not accepting any responsibility to tell us and the American people how we’re going to pay for it. But it’s an indication that he is stubbornly clinging to a policy that has been a demonstrable failure."

(Kinzel) On Wednesday night at the Democratic Presidential candidates debate at Dartmouth College, the three leading candidates — Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards – all said they couldn’t rule out the possibility that combat troops might still be in Iraq at the end of their first term if they’re elected. That would be 2012.

Welch, who’s voted for legislation to remove virtually all combat troops by September of 2008, was surprised by the comments.

(Welch) "Certainly that’s not anything that I’d support. I think that this policy of continuing a military approach, relying on a military approach, is going to get us nowhere. But I think they’re reflecting the fact that the bottom line is America has very difficult choices. And they’re reflecting the knowledge that common sense Americans know. That is that we don’t have easy choices in Iraq. It’s not as if you can just pull the plug."

(Kinzel) Welch says it is clear that all three of these candidates back efforts to seek a political and diplomatic solution to the war and he says their polices represent a huge change in direction from those of President Bush.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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