JUNE 30TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate
By BUTCH HEMAN | Staff Writer
Read the original story at The Daily Times Herald
Sen. Tom Harkin this morning criticized President Bush’s intention to veto a substantial education, health and labor bill, calling the president “the odd person out.”
In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Harkin described a bill that would raise funding for biomechanical research by $1 billion, boost appropriations for child health centers by $150 million, spend $50 million more to address a backlog in Social Security disability claims, increase funding for colorectal exams for low-income persons by $25 million and raise allocations for school repairs by $6 million.
Harkin said the bill passed a Senate subcommittee without a dissenting vote and he expected full committee passage.
Saying Senate Democrats had exceeded their budget request by $9.5 billion, Bush said he would veto the measure. Harkin doubts enough senators would vote to override.
“We are moving forward in Congress. We are,” Harkin remarked. “It’s just that the president seems to be the odd man out.”
On other budget issues, Harkin said he hopes the Senate acts on a supplemental funding bill before it adjourns for a two-week Independence Day break on Friday. The package includes $2.65 billion for flood relief.
“But I just don’t know if we can get it done. It might take until the second week of July” when the Senate resumes the 2008 session, Harkin added. “It’s just a shame we can’t get that thing done.”
With roughly half of the estimated $8 billion in U.S. crop damage from spring flooding occurring in Iowa, Harkin was asked about federal assistance. The Department of Agriculture has stated it will take double the $50 billion earmarked by Congress to get the new farm bill off the ground.
Harkin didn’t find fault with the USDA’s assessment but pointed out that the department has had three directors during the Bush administration and remarked, “This (farm bill) didn’t happen overnight. They’ve known it was coming for a long time. They’ve never asked for sufficient funds through the farm bill. They’d better get a better handle on it. If they want more money, then they should come up here and ask for an emergency appropriation, and we’ll honor that. But where are they?”“
Harkin said the new farm bill “has plenty of safety-net protection” for Iowa farmers affected by recent flooding.
The four-term senator might have fired a shot across Bush’s bow regarding the budget, but he did have mild praise for the president this morning. Bush announced today he will lift trade sanctions against North Korea and remove it from the U.S. terrorist blacklist – a striking turn in diplomacy regarding a communist regime Bush once described as being part of the “axis of evil.”
“I’m encouraged by this,” said Harkin. “But we could’ve done this a long time ago by having negotiations and constant diplomacy rather than saber rattling. But better late than never.
“I hope this will lead to a North Korea that’s an open member of the international community.”