Veterans Groups Urge Full War Funding

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - The leaders of two large national veterans' organizations on Thursday called on Democratic leaders in Congress to offer a war funding bill free of withdrawal timelines and "pork barrel" spending.

"This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. The sooner our troops complete the mission, the sooner they'll return home," Gary Kurpis, commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), said in a conference call.

"The funding package is so critical to the training and the equipment and fielding of our troops," Kurpis said. "With it, the [troop] surge has a chance of succeeding."

Paul Morin, national commander of the American Legion, said the war appropriations bill is the wrong way for opponents of the war to voice their opposition. "The war funding bill should be passed without any dates of withdrawal or any other issues not concerning the war funding," he said.

"They have many other avenues to do their pork barrel projects," Morin said, echoing criticism that the bills passed through both houses of Congress include numerous unrelated spending projects.

The House bill passed in March would allocate $103 billion to the war. It includes $21 billion in "pork spending," which goes to unrelated projects such as peanut storage and the shrimp industry. The House bill also calls for a troop withdrawal by September 2008.

The Senate version passed later made different allocations and set a withdrawal date of April 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met with Bush Wednesday, urging him to consider their proposals. In spite of the discussion, the Democrats have vowed to include withdrawal dates in any bill, and Bush has vowed to veto any such legislation.

"We are in a position where we believe we are doing the right thing for the people of this country, the majority of the Congress and the military," Reid said of efforts to include timetables.

Morin said anti-war senators and representatives could express their feelings through more non-binding resolutions, which express frustration with the war but carry no legal influence that will act to end it.

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