HH: As I reported in the first segment, the House of Representatives disgraced itself today, voting 218-212 to retreat, the bleed the troops of support, to signal the enemy that they’re willing to throw in the towel. Republicans did much better than they expected in holding the line, and that’s a lot of thanks that go to the Republican Whip, Roy Blunt, who joins me on the phone now. Congressman Blunt, I’d like to say congratulations, you guys did do a good job, but unfortunately, defeatists are in the majority in the House of Representatives.
RB: Well, they are, Hugh, and I think the key to today’s vote is that this bill will surely never wind up on the President’s desk, and our friends on the other side just defined themselves for who they are. I can’t see how that’s helpful to them in the long run. It certainly wasn’t a helpful vote for the country. It shows the kind of unwillingness to win that our enemies in the world say we have anyway, and that’s why I’m so proud that Republicans were just virtually all there. Only two Republicans voted for this so-called emergency spending bill that included everything from spinach to tropical fish to peanut storage, to try to get their members to stay on board. And if you notice that final vote, they barely got this job done, even though they put all the pressure in the world on their members to be there. And at the end of the day, their members were there, and we didn’t give them anyplace to hide. There was no re-committal, no nothing, but you’re just going to have to vote for this, straight up or not.
HH: Now it goes over to the Senate, where I’m hoping this defeatism will be stripped. But if it doesn’t, the President will veto it, obviously, Congressman Blunt. My concern is the Pentagon indicated some interruptions in supply could start to arrive very soon, if the supplemental won without defeat attached to it doesn’t get through the Congress.
RB: Well, again, the majority’s going to have to answer for that, and I think the pressure over this break is going to be great. Our friends at the American Legion, our friends at Veterans of Foreign Wars have strongly come out against this way of approaching the war in Iraq, in their conventions here in Washington just a couple of weeks ago. I think a lot of Democrats are going to have a lot of explaining to do at home over the next couple of weeks. And you know, we’ve got one more week before we take that district work period, and they’re going to go home having to explain this vote, and having to explain, frankly, the disgraceful addition of all the spending that has nothing to do with an emergency, that’s just on there to try and get Democrats on board. And something people who normally aren’t our friends on these issues have editorialized strongly against the way this bill was put together, and the formula for defeat. The Washington Post this morning said not only is this a formula for defeat, but it’s disgraceful in the way it reaches out and tries to convince people to vote for the bill for things that don’t have anything to do with the military or an emergency.
HH: Congressman Blunt, I find it almost impossible to believe that some Democrats would vote for defeat in exchange for a spinach or a peanut subsidy, but that’s in fact what happened. Have you got a list circulating of those Democrats who simply said oh, the war doesn’t matter, what I need is pork?
RB: Well, you know, I think that there’ll be people who’ll be connecting the dots on that list. We’ve certainly got the list available of the Democrats who voted for this bill. Every freshman Democrat voted for this bill, every freshman Democrat voted for this bill, much to my surprise. I think looking at what they said they were going to be for when they ran just months ago, and what they were for today on this bill, not only did they all say they wouldn’t be for pork barrel spending, but they all also said that they were going to defend America’s needs at home an abroad, and I don’t see that this bill meets either of those standards. You’ve got $25 million dollars for spinach farmer relief, you’ve got $5 million dollars for tropical fish raising relief, you’ve got $74 million dollars for peanut storage, $120 million dollars for shrimp and minnow fishing industries. The list just literally goes on and on, the $50 million dollar well known emergency, the Capitol Hill power plant. Plus, I believe even a minimum wage bill was thrown in there at some point to try to get the Democrats to think they couldn’t walk away from this formula for defeat.
HH: Congressman Blunt, I did not realize that every freshman Democrat had voted for retreat and pork. And I remember Heath Schuler and others promising their constituents that they would not be cut and run Democrats. That lasted what? Three months?
RB: If that. That lasted three months, and you do have that long list with Heath, Heath Schuler, and Brad Ellsworth, and just the list goes really on and on of all these new Democrats, all of whom, most of whom promised that they weren’t going to be the Democrats who came to Washington to lose this fight against our totalitarian enemies.
HH: So let me reconfirm that. Every single freshman who is a Democrat voted for retreat and for pork today?
HH: Wow. All right, now Congressman Blunt, it does go over to the Senate. What do you expect to have happen there?
RB: I don’t think the Senate can pass a bill that has these handcuffs on our commanders in the field. You know, this bill would basically make the commanders in the field, our best generals, into administrative assistants, where they’re constantly filling out whether or not the exact, specific things are…that are requirements now of the Congress, are met, and have to sign a waiver if they’re not exactly where they ought to be. It clearly does call for a full pullout from Iraq by August of next year. And remember, you’ve got guys who’ve been hiding in caves since 9/11. To tell them you need to hide another 18 months somewhere before you can fully unleash yourselves is not a very hard thing at all to ask them to do. This basically just lays down a formula for defeat, and adds $21.3 billion dollars worth of non-emergency spending on the back of a bill that’s supposed to be designed to get the assistance to the troops they need as quickly as they can get it. And I think they know this is not the quickest way, because they know that the Senate’s not likely to do this, the Conference Committee is not likely to do this, and the President’s not likely to sign it.
HH: Let’s listen to the President today earlier reacting to this bill.
GWB: Our men and women in uniform need these emergency war funds. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April the 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so would their families. Democrats have sent their message, now it’s time to send their money. This is an important moment of decision for the new leaders in Congress. Our men and women in uniform should not have to worry that politicians in Washington will deny them the funds and the flexibility they need to win. Congress needs to send me a clean bill that I can sign without delay. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people, and so do the good men and women standing with me here today.
HH: Congressman Roy Blunt, that’s a very tough message. I hope it gets through. And should people be calling, even though the vote is over, to communicate their dismay to their Congressmen?
RB: I think it would be a great idea to call. I think the President’s point was made strongly and effectively. If you had to have your show vote to prove that you don’t want to win this war, you don’t want to fight this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ve had that vote. Now do what needs to be done to support the troops.
HH: Congressman Roy Blunt, always a pleasure. Congrats on getting a good whip going today, and keep fighting the good fight back there, Congressman.
End of interview.