Veterans’ Health Care, Disaster Relief and Avian Flu Funds Also Subject to Veto

By Maddy Sauer

Apr 25, 2007 11:19am

While the debate in Congress this week focuses on troop withdrawals and timetables, more than $20 billion of the $124 billion of funds provided in the hotly debated supplemental war funding bill will not be going to Iraq. Funding for veterans’ health care, Hurricane Katrina relief, agricultural disaster relief as well as the majority of this year’s avian flu preparedness funds will all also be subject to the president’s expected veto. One leading advocate for veterans says that vets are caught in the middle. "We need the money for veterans’ health care," said Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "This situation is a perfect example of how the troops and the American people are caught in the crossfire of partisan bickering." Also on the bill are funds to help continue the recovery process from Hurricane Katrina. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. "Unfortunately, the president has threatened to veto the bill because of ‘excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending.’ But I do not view the $2.38 billion for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in this bill to be excessive or extraneous," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. About three-quarters of this year’s avian flu preparedness funds, more than $600 million, is also included in the supplemental bill. Those funds would go to increasing antiviral stockpiles and vaccine development. Without the funds, those orders will have to be placed on hold. "We can’t make the order until we get the funding," said Bill Hall, spokesperson at the Department of Health and Human Services. Hall stressed that the goals of the HHS avian flu plan will remain the same, and when a funding bill is passed, those antiviral orders will be placed and contracts with vaccine developers will proceed. Some argue that these items are worthy of funding, but that they do not belong in a war supplemental bill. "While many of these are much needed projects," said Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., "they do not belong in an emergency supplemental for our soldiers engaged in the War on Terror." Previous war supplemental bills passed under Republican leadership also included funds for hurricane recovery and bird flu preparations. Rieckhoff says that while each side attempts to frame the debate on their own terms, veterans’ health care and the other programs become political hostages. "Republicans want to paint the Democrats as undermining the troops, and the Democrats want to paint the president as continuing to mismanage the war and endanger the troops in his own way," he said. "It’s a dangerous way to do things."

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