Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — who just two weeks ago told community leaders she doesn’t believe “earmark” should be a dirty word and so she’s doing all she can to get her district its fair share of federal dollars — said she was stunned by the President’s call to slash such spending.
“Look at the president’s earmarks he puts forth every year – I’m totally flabbergasted at what he’s talking about,” she said a few minutes ago, noting that Bush himself requested more than $20 billion in earmarks in 2006, and that Democrats already have enacted transparency rules and other reforms that were absent during Republican control of Congress. “Many communities in the country, such as my community, deserve some of their federal dollars back… people pay taxes in these congressional districts and they deserve some of their federal dollars back in the form of earmarks.”
Long a leader in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, Lee said the President’s call for increased spending still falls short. “Given the magnitude of the pandemic, we’re suggesting $50 billion in our reauthorization bill; $30 billion is not enough,” she said, adding she was disappointed Bush failed to address the disease’s impact on America, particularly in communities of color.
She said she fears his demand to keep the economic-stimulus package clear of any add-ons. “You know what that means: don’t add food stamps or extension of unemployment benefits,” she predicted, even as five million more people have fallen below the poverty line during Bush’s tenure. “I would think he’d want to do as much as he could to help poor people in this economic stimulus plan.”
A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Lee said she also fears the 150 “bloated” programs he said he’ll try to slash probably include just the sorts of programs for which she and others have fought hard – things such as violence prevention, outreach to at-risk youth and other support structures for low- and middle-income communities. “We’ll be ready for the fight,” she vowed.
And she said she’s “not surprised but disappointed” at his stay-the-course tone for the war in Iraq. “I think we have to mount more aggressive efforts here in the House to end it … to put up no more money except for a fully funded withdrawal of the troops.”
All in all, she said, “I’m very pleased that this was the last State of the Union speech that we’ll have to listen to and respond to by George W. Bush.”
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, viewed the speech on television at home, although his grandson – Timothy Wainwright, 16 – was on the House floor as a newly-sworn Congressional page. Stark said he wishes his grandson had been witness to a more inspiring moment.
“I think you just watched what history will determine was the worst president in the history of the United States reviewing all the bad things he has done,” he said. “I think you got more excitement out of the presidential debates on both sides of the aisle over the last few months than you did tonight… It was not a speech with a great deal of charge and change for the American public, it just kind of summarized a lackluster administration.”
Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said he was dismayed by President Bush’s continued call for privatizing Medicare and Social Security, as well as for maintaining the war in Iraq. “I didn’t hear a lot tonight, I literally didn’t hear a new idea or something he didn’t raise the last time.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who in past years has been quick to provide an elegant verbal riposte following President Bush’s State of the Union addresses, wasn’t available for comment Monday night. Let’s hope that this has little to do with his recent announcement that he’s starting treatment for esophageal cancer, and rather that he simply wanted the night off.
Statements issued by Ellen Tauscher, Jerry McNerney and others, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »