The American military is engaged in multiple conflicts and humanitarian missions around the world, yet President Obama promised to veto legislation funding the troops for the remainder of 2011. This is a reprehensible political stunt, and it comes at the expense of our servicemen and women and the families they support.
Yesterday, as efforts to resolve the debate on 2011 government funding continued, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Il.) introduced yet another temporary bill designed to keep the government operating for one more week during negotiations, and in this case, ensure the military portion of the budget is appropriated to eliminate the economic uncertainty facing our troops.
Before a vote was even taken, President Obama issued a Statement of Administration Policy that offered no policy, and merely called Speaker Boehner's efforts a "distraction", with the promise to veto the legislation. In fact, Speaker Boehner's goal was to aid our armed forces by removing the distraction of a looming government shutdown for our troops. The House went on to pass the bill 247-181 with 15 Democrats joining nearly all Republicans.
The American public has clearly spoken that it is demanding budget cuts, but so far nothing has happened in the Senate—not one serious alternative to the budget with $61 billion in cuts the House passed nearly two months ago. That Harry Reid is even allowed at the negotiating table before completing the prerequisites is a mystery, and this latest episode of defense funding angst by he and Obama continues the drama.
United States military personnel are actively supporting the Libyan rebellion. Navy sailors and Marines are providing humanitarian relief to our ally Japan. American soldiers are still working to rebuild Iraq often in hostile conditions. They are engaged in active combat in Afghanistan. Some are being wounded daily; some maimed; some even killed. Others are doing their jobs around the globe keeping sea lanes open, on patrol, standing a post, and training for whatever conflicts lie ahead. Yet incredibly, their Commander-in-Chief vows to veto their paychecks.
The House-passed bill is essential to ensure military forces deployed around the world will get the equipment they need to succeed. Even it will fund defense at levels significantly below President Obama's request, unfortunately, which is causing strain across the military right now.
The drawn-out budget fight to fund the government for 2011 is reaching a crescendo with a potential government shutdown now hours away. President Obama chose to finally engage the negotiations this week, yet still deflected leadership saying: "I shouldn't have to oversee a process in which Congress deals with last year's budget..."
This is true Mr. President. If last year's Democrat-controlled Congress had fulfilled its basic responsibilities, we would not be in this situation. Yet, they did not, and you did not push them to do so. Now we are facing a partial government shutdown and while the House of Representatives offers fiscal solutions, measures to protect military pay and spending cuts, the White House and Senate merely say "no". No is not good enough.
Democrat Party leaders are on record "rooting" for a shutdown in hopes it helps their electoral odds in 2012. By killing this measure to fully fund our troops and take them out of this Washington battle, their political maneuvering has taken a dangerous turn.
Supporting the military at the appropriate levels so as to protect and defend our nation is the first and foremost Constitutional responsibility of the federal government. It is one often abdicated in favor of stimulus bills and irresponsible entitlement management. The 2012 budget battle will once again address this as the president's budget proposal fails to appropriately fund these duties. However, for 2011, right now, it is an easy choice, not a distraction.
Last night in the White House briefing room, the president tried once again to project leadership, but said: "I'm not yet prepared to express wild optimism…but I think we are further along today than we were yesterday."
Absent a deal today, President Obama should actively press Congress to fund the troops, and withdraw his threat to veto their funding. Let our soldiers get back to work without threats to their safety and their families' finances. It's time for President Obama and Senator Reid to show that kind of leadership.