WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement in response to President Bush’s speech today to the American Legion in Chicago on military action in Iraq and veterans’ issues:
“Americans are praying for the safety of the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women overseas. Though they face violence and danger every day, they tirelessly devote themselves to defending America abroad, as did their predecessors.
“President Bush and Republican leaders seem content to reward those who have served America with speeches and photo-ops, instead of fully funding the programs on which veterans and military families depend. Earlier this year, House Republicans voted to cut veterans’ benefits by $14 billion over ten years in the fiscal year 2004 budget. After agreeing to a Senate budget provision to reduce the cuts, the House Republicans reneged on their promise to increase funding for VA health care and passed a bill providing $1.8 million less than agreed to for the fiscal year 2004 Budget.
“President Bush claims that he will provide tax relief to hard-working military families, but he excluded certain military families from the law providing an increase in the child tax credit this year – preferring instead to send most of the money to the wealthiest Americans.
“Additionally, since last year House Republicans have held hostage the Armed Services Fairness Act, which would provide tax relief for military families, because they oppose Senate provisions to crack down on those who renounce their citizenship in order to avoid U.S. taxes.
“In sharp contrast, the Democratic 2004 budget proposal addressed the rising demand for veterans’ health care by adding $216 million above the Republican plan with no cuts to veterans' benefits over the next ten years. Democrats also fought on the House Floor in July to increase funding for veterans programs in fiscal year 2004.
“Lofty rhetoric in front of rows of American flags makes for great photo-ops, but does nothing to help the members of our armed forces or our veterans. President Bush and Republicans actions make clear that their priorities lay elsewhere and not with our veterans and military families.”