The Bush administration is threatening that it will issue furlough notices to up to 150,000 civilian workers at military bases in mid-December if Congress does not approve unrestricted Iraq funding immediately. As part of this campaign, the Pentagon is distributing a document warning that the Army may cease to function if it does not receive the funds now. (View the document here.)
At a press conference this morning, Reps. John Murtha (D-PA) and David Obey (D-WI) rebutted the administration’s scare-mongering by noting that, just last week, Bush signed a $471 billion defense spending bill. That bill “contains enough money to continue military operations through mid-February, because of a provision that lets the administration shift money to the war from other Pentagon accounts.”
Murtha ripped the Pentagon’s “Rumsfeld-like” tactics aimed at “scaring the families of the troops” just ahead of the Christmas season:
I thought we’d gotten rid of Secretary Rumsfeld, but this really worries me that there would be such a political document. … This is a political document. They’re scaring people. They’re scaring the families of the troops with this document. That’s the thing that’s so despicable about what they’re doing.
Watch some highlights:
In this morning’s White House gaggle, spokeswoman Dana Perino admitted they’re making civilian employees fear for their jobs as a way to “remind Congress” to pass a bill, despite the fact the funding has passed the house and is being blocked by Republicans in the Senate:
QUESTION: Are you saying that these furloughs would begin before they come back from this vacation?
PERINO: The notices. I’m not sure of the date. I know that they have to notice because under the rules you have to give people, I think it is 60 to 90 days worth of notice that they could be furloughed. So that could happen.
QUESTION: So this is a way to remind Congress that you want them to pass this bill?
PERINO: That’s exactly what that was.
QUESTION: So you’re making them suffer —
PERINO: I’m making the Democrats suffer?
QUESTION: No, you’re making the civilians who work for the Defense —
PERINO: Oh, no, it is not us who are making any civilians suffer.
QUESTION: There ought to be —
PERINO: We are calling on Congress to —
QUESTION: How many billions have we spent already for the Defense Department?
PERINO: The Defense Department says that they need this funding in order to keep the war running, as well as to keep these civilians…
QUESTION: Maybe they don’t want the war to keep running.
At this morning’s press conference, Murtha underscored the point: “There’s a difference between supporting our military and their families, and supporting the war in Iraq. This administration supports this war. This Congress supports our troops and their families, as we’ve proved over and over and over again.”
UPDATE: HuffPolitics has more.
MURTHA: Once again the president responded with more rhetoric and threats. He blames Congress for not providing him with additional funding, but flatly refused to work with us on a solution. What he fails to mention is that he could have the money in two days. As Dave Obey said, he just picks up the phone and calls the Republicans in the Senate.
While Congress is working to improve the quality of life for our troops, this administration is reversing these efforts with this political document. You talk about morale, when they make statements like, “We’re going to lay-off people,” there’s thousand of people throughout the country that don’t need to be laid-off and shouldn’t be laid-off and they’re worrying them — those folks. This reduces the morale of the people throughout the country.
I don’t like to think this, but it’s almost like a Rumsfeld-like prediction here — a Rumsfeld-like. I thought we’d gotten rid of Secretary Rumsfeld, but this really worries me that there would be such a political document.
There’s seven months’ backlog at the depots — seven months’ backlog. In other words, there’s seven months’ work still in the depots, fully funded. They talked about IEDs the other day. We already funded over $3 billion for IEDs in a big unobligated (inaudible). This is a political document. They’re scaring people. They’re scaring the families of the troops with this document. That’s the thing that’s so despicable about what they’re doing.