Canton Repository

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Area lawmakers split by party in vote on Iraq funding

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Northeast Ohio lawmakers split along party lines as the House approved $87 billion for troops and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan on Friday.

Endorsing one of President Bush’s top priorities, the House voted 303-125 in favor of the package, which includes $18.6 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. The Senate approved a similar version 87-12.

Republican Reps. Ralph Regula of Bethlehem Township and Bob Ney of St. Clairsville were among the majority voting yes. Democratic Reps. Sherrod Brown of Lorain, Ted Strickland of Lucasville and Tim Ryan of Warren opposed the measure.

Ohio Sens. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, and George Voinovich, R-Columbus, voted yes as expected.

Discussing the $87 billion request last month, Ney, R-St. Clairsville, said he supported the troops but wondered why the $18.6 billion for reconstruction was being given as a grant rather than a loan. “Why can’t there be a commitment that the new Iraqi government that is coming ... pay this back in oil revenue,” he said in September.

Ney, however, voted against an unsuccessful amendment Thursday that would have treated 50 percent of the reconstruction funds as a loan.

Ney was unavailable Friday evening to discuss the amendment, sponsored by Rep. David Obey, R-Wis. It failed 226-200.

The Senate, however, converted half of the rebuilding grant to a loan in its bill. Republican leaders have vowed to remove the loan provision, which is opposed by the White House, when the two versions of the legislation go to a conference committee next week.

Regula had signaled his support for the full $87 billion. At the same time, he expressed hope that Bush could persuade the United Nations to shoulder some of the burden.

Brown, Strickland and Ryan joined a majority of House Democrats in voting no.

“The administration has failed to protect and supply the troops, has failed to get other (foreign) troops involved, has failed to give the American people a real (exit) plan and has continued to give their contributors unbid contracts” for reconstruction, Brown said. “How can you then turn around and give the president an $87 billion blank check?”

Strickland said he couldn’t justify giving Iraq money “to build infrastructure that didn’t even exist before the war ... while we have so many unmet needs right here at home.”

Ryan was concerned about unmet needs in the United States and he criticized the administration for not providing enough armored vests and other protection for U.S. troops, his spokesman Pat Lowry said.