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Mikulski Slams White House: ‘Since You’re Pugnacious, Guess What? I’m Going To Be Pretty Pugnacious, Too’

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"Mikulski Slams White House: ‘Since You’re Pugnacious, Guess What? I’m Going To Be Pretty Pugnacious, Too’"

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The White House has proposed a $108 billion emergency-spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Frustrated that U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for the wars while domestic needs go unmet, lawmakers have attempted to attach spending for domestic programs to the bill. But Bush has balked, promising to veto any such bills.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, White House budget director Jim Nussle ironically blasted lawmakers for “sky-is-the-limit mind-set” on the spending bill. One of the most combative moments came when Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) chastised Nussle for his “snarky, scolding, dismissive” responses to the senators and the Bush administration’s attitude toward funding the nation’s law enforcement officers:

Your testimony has been disappointing in both tone and substance. I personally take offense at the snarky, scolding, dismissive way that this testimony represents. And I think it’s inappropriate. [...]

This is an ideological commentary, not the testimony of OMB. So since you’re pugnacious, guess what? I’m going to be pretty pugnacious, too, only my pugnaciousness is not going to be directed at the Congress. It’s going to be pugnacious about the people I represent. [...]

Number one, let’s go to safety and security. We have funded the surge of Baghdad, but we have not funded the surge of violent crime in Baltimore, Biloxi, or other places. You have zeroed out the COPS program. You have zeroed out the Byrne grant.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/04/mikulskinussle09.320.240.flv]

Bush has requested $603 million to train Iraqi police. But at the same time, his FY 2009 budget includes a 61 percent cut for state and local law enforcement programs at the Justice Department.

Transcript:

MIKULSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you very much for calling this hearing. I think it’s the essential thing we need to do.

Mr. Nussle, I’ve got to tell you, I’m really disappointed in your testimony. It’s been some time that I have heard the kind of tone that has been expressed by a representative of the Bush administration. Your testimony has been disappointing in both tone and substance.

I personally take offense at the snarky, scolding, dismissive way that this testimony represents. And I think it’s inappropriate. [...]

This is an ideological commentary, not the testimony of OMB. So since you’re pugnacious, guess what? I’m going to be pretty pugnacious, too, only my pugnaciousness is not going to be directed at the Congress. It’s going to be pugnacious about the people I represent.

So let’s get to it. Pugnacious? You bet. Let’s pick up on what Leahy and Harkin said about the Byrne grant. You want the regular order? I am the regular order. I chair CJS. And what this administration has done here has been outrageous.

Number one, let’s go to safety and security. We have funded the surge of Baghdad, but we have not funded the surge of violent crime in Baltimore, Biloxi, or other places. You have zeroed out the COPS program. You have zeroed out the Byrne grant.

When Shelby and Mikulski tried to do something last year in the regular budget, we were told, Eat $3 billion or face a veto threat. So we foraged and we skimped and we squeezed in to be able to make sure that our bill didn’t get a veto threat, and we came up with $170 million.

You can talk about all your smokestacks and whatever, but you bet there’s smoke. There’s smoke right here and now, and there is frustration from state and local police officers that say they need help. They need help.

And this administration has funded $5 billion over the last couple of years to fund the training of Iraqi police. You bet they need training. But I am telling you, I need the money, Senator Shelby and I need the money to make sure that our local law enforcement, the thin blue line, gets the money that they need to fight violent crime. So I’m going to ask in plain English: If, in fact, we (inaudible) the supplemental, restore the Byrne grants and only the Byrne grants to the needed level of $560 million, will you support it or will we face a veto threat?

NUSSLE: Well, Senator, I can only repeat what the president has said.

MIKULSKI: The president didn’t say anything about this. You think if I went to see the president, he would say, No ?

NUSSLE: Senator, I can only repeat what the president said. And his two priorities that he stated were that the bill stay within the $108.1 billion request and that it support the troops. That’s what he has said on the topic.

Beyond that, I don’t believe he has — I think the senator is correct — not spoken directly to those issues. But I also believe that the regular appropriations process is the time and the place to deal with those challenges. And…

MIKULSKI: But you eliminated it. You eliminated the COPS program, and you eliminated the Byrne grant program in your regular appropriations request.

So you’re saying, Don’t fund it in the supplemental. The president doesn’t request it in the regular order. And now you’re telling me you can’t accept it in the supplemental because the president didn’t talk about it. And when you sent us the CJS president’s request, it’s not in there for ’09. [...]

Mr. Chairman, with your cooperation, I hope that we do and fund it. If we’re talking about a safe and secure America, I want to make sure the streets of the United States of America are safe and secure. And I will work on a bipartisan basis to do it.

BYRD: Senator Murray?

MURRAY: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for having this hearing.

And, Mr. Nussle, I share the anger, frustration, I guess pugnaciousness of the senator from Maryland. It is extremely disturbing to me that we are getting an emergency supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan five-and-a-half years into this war that’s being paid for off the books.

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rmpowers Says: “OMB and the Bush admin argue again and again that funding for increasingly urgent domestic priorities, including healthcare, combating crime, and even funding for educating returning Iraq War veterans ought to be handled via the regular appropriations process, while they hypocritically fund their failing venture in Iraq in an unprecedented fashion: with supplemental after supplemental.

Indeed, as the CRS reports, “past Administrations have requested, and Congress has provided, funding for ongoing military operations in regular appropriations bills as soon as even a limited and partial projection of costs could be made.”

Shouldn’t funding requests for foreign military operations the American people do not support be held to the same standard as funding requests for domestic priorities the American people desperately need? Just asking…”

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