The annual appropriations bill for the Defense Department will be center stage this week and prominent Democrats are getting ready to strut their stuff. It should be noted that this bill doesn’t fund the war in Iraq–that’s done separately, through a supplemental appropriation, an outrageous bit of Bush budget flim-flam designed to hide the fiscal impact of the war on the federal deficit.
Of the four amendments offered by Democrats running for President, two are substantive and important:
–Biden’s amendment to speed production of mine-resistant vehicles for Iraq, which will save lives and neutralize the terrorists’ major weapon: roadside bombs.
–Obama’s amendment to beef up mental health services for returning veterans and apply greater scrutiny to defense contractors. (Mental health counseling should be mandatory for all returning troops–to remove the stigma–and I’ll have more to say about that in a future column.)
The other two amendments are symbolic: Clinton’s, with Robert Byrd, to deauthorize the war…and Chris Dodd’s, to begin withdrawals now. In the later case, my guess is that some version of that will pass the Senate, perhaps in veto proof fashion, this fall. To keep on pushing that boulder up the hill now only reinforces the public’s sense of Democratic futility on the war.
Speaking of Democratic futility, though: Why hasn’t there been a major effort to kill some of the antique weapons systems that lard up the Pentagon budget? Why do we still waste money on Star Wars and ABM? (Although spending some dough on research, not development, of those two battle-axes would be ok.) Wouldn’t it behoove the Democrats politically to make a major pitch for reforming the Pentagon budget? Isn’t this part of the reason why the public is so disappointed with the same-old, same-old Congress?