An amount greater than the budgets of seven U.S. Cabinet level departments: $87,543,098,000.
The largest amount of emergency spending since the Marshall Plan.
In case you don’t remember, the Marshall Plan rebuilt a destroyed Europe after World War II.
This is the amount of money the U.S. Senate decided to give to President Bush on Monday night to fight the war in Iraq, and the “war on terror.” Late last week, the bill passed the House of Representatives by more than 2-1. It was assumed at that time by most that it would pass the Senate as well.
For such a momentous vote, one would think every U.S. Senator would be in attendance Monday night, ready to give final statements and vote in favor or against the bill, whatever position they felt compelled to take.
So how many Senators actually turned out for the vote?
And did they even vote? Not really. The vote was by voice, which meant all the senators present had to do was back into a shadowy corner of the chamber so no one could identify them and yell “yea.”
Why so few senators, and why the anonymous voting? Because, according to the New York Times, “Republicans (were) nervous about explaining the amounts to their constituents, and Democrats did not want their patriotism questioned for opposing the bill.”
Does anyone else have that queasy, “drank too much chocolate milk” feeling in their stomachs?
Democrats don’t want to seem unpatriotic? Aren’t we past this? And Republicans don’t want to have to explain the amount to their constituents? What are they doing representing the people if they don’t want to answer to them?
When I heard the news that only six senators had voted on one of the most important spending bills of this fiscal year, I almost felt slightly ashamed of the legislative process I have grown up to believe in. The Republican Party has touted this “supplemental” package as good for the U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and good for the Iraqi people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to pinch pennies when it comes to defending U.S. soldiers who, like it or not, are over there risking their lives every day for unknown purposes.
I also realize that we can’t just up and pull out of Iraq tomorrow. The country would fall apart, and all the tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives we’ve sunk into the country will be for naught.
But if you really want to help out U.S. soldiers, here’s what George W. has to do: He should pick up that phone in his office, get out the little chalkboard he writes all his important stuff on, and dial the U.N. Then he has to swallow his enormous pride and say, “I’m sorry.”
Only then will international help arrive to “supplement” a U.S. force that simply cannot handle the enormity of the situation in Iraq. You have the U.S. Army trying to rebuild the nation’s crumbled infrastructure, maintain a working government, provide nationwide security and also actively search and destroy terrorist cells.
With international support, some of these responsibilities could be alleviated, and the likelihood of what happened on Sunday might be lessened. The situation in Iraq is worsening. Sure, we’re supposedly building schools, but we’ve also graduated from indignant Iraqi citizens riding up to our tanks in cars and shooting bullets to trained international fighters shooting down helicopters with sophisticated ground-to-air weaponry.
So, thanks to five of those senators for giving our president a check to distribute between his industry buddies. And thank you Robert Byrd, Senator from West Virginia, for being the only one to stand up against this foolishness, saying of the bill, “This is not a good bill for our troops in Iraq…this is not a good policy for the United States.”
Joe Roma is a senior majoring in political science. Rahner13@hotmail.com