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Last Updated:4/18/03
Speech by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), April 3, 2003

Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

I rise to support this amendment offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern), my friend and co-sponsor.

The previous speaker spoke about national interest. This amendment provides at least some critical assistance to national interest, and that is of homeland security. Mr. Chairman, this supplemental bill that we are debating today is about the war in Iraq. It is about the crucial ongoing operations in the region of Afghanistan, and it is about protecting the American people from future acts of terrorism. This war is expensive, and its aftermath will be more expensive still. And I must tell the Members, Mr. Chairman, I have deep concerns and I am troubled so very much about the aftermath after we have a victory in Iraq because that of course will be the proof in the pudding as to whether the young men and young women's sacrifices have been in vain.

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I commend the Committee on Appropriations for providing the funding to give our troops everything they need to win the war, and I commend them too for making a downpayment on the costs of reconstruction in Iraq. We in Congress and the American people must know that rebuilding that nation will require substantial and sustained commitment.

But we owe a commitment too to our first responders here in our own country. They are on the front lines of the war on terrorism right here at home. Our States remain underfunded for critical needs. The State of Missouri alone requires some $500 million to do the defense work concerning our first responders. And while this supplemental provides some funding for the States, it needs to do more.

This amendment would provide more funding for the first responders by decreasing the amount of military and counterdrug assistance going to Colombia. I have deep concerns about our Nation's involvement in the ongoing conflict there, but today my larger concern is about where we face a bigger danger, and that is right here in the United States of America. That justifies emergency spending.

This amendment, Mr. Chairman, allows funds for unforeseen needs in Colombia, notably search and rescue operations for the Americans held hostage, and increased security for President Uribe, who is trying so hard to bring peace to his nation. But, Mr. Chairman, on the other hand, Colombia's request can be and should be handled in regular order. There is simply no emergency that warrants funding for these other items and programs in this bill. Money is more urgently needed and it would be more appropriately spent in the supplemental supporting our first responders right here in the United States just as we support our troops.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for his leadership.

As of April 18, 2003, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r108:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20030403)

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