This week, my colleagues and I worked hard in the Appropriations Committee to craft a wartime funding bill that makes a down payment on Operation Iraqi Freedom and strengthens homeland security. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives late Thursday night, covers the current cost of fueling American ships, aircraft, and tanks. It allows the military to airlift tons of munitions and other supplies into the theater of operations and to rapidly deliver humanitarian relief, food, and medicine to the many needy Iraqi people. In addition, the wartime funding bill includes resources for strengthening our defenses against terrorism at home. The legislation provides more than $2 billion directly to firemen, police officers, medical personnel, and other first responders who are at the center of our domestic security strategy. We are also increasing funding to safeguard our ports and borders, protect against bioterrorism, and investigate terrorist threats. On Tuesday morning, I appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" to discuss this appropriations bill and urge viewers to remember the achievements our troops have made. In an age of 24-hour news channels, it is easy to overlook the big picture. In the past two weeks, our military has secured the southern oil fields, marched to the outskirts of Baghdad, gained air supremacy over the entire country, and slashed the fighting ability of the Republican Guard. There could be tough times ahead, but I am confident that our troops are poised to meet their objectives decisively. During committee consideration of the wartime funding bill, I supported an amendment that provides assistance to the airline industry to help offset the costs of federally required security improvements. The employees and management of American and other airlines have taken difficult steps to cut spending and stay solvent, but they still face challenging times ahead. I firmly believe that we cannot allow soaring security costs and the war in Iraq to clip the wings of an industry so important to the U.S. economy. The House and Senate have both passed bills to fund the war in Iraq; the bills now must be reconciled before being sent to the President for his signature. What's on Tap for Next Week? Next week, the House of Representatives will debate comprehensive legislation to meet our nation's energy needs while also completing final action on the wartime spending bill and a budget framework for next year. As always, I enjoy staying in touch with you.
With kind regards,
April 4, 2003