Peoria Journal Star

LaHood supports Bush plan for Iraq
Lawmaker says efforts by some Democrats to restrict funding 'would be a disgrace'


January 10, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. - After a meeting with President Bush, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood on Tuesday said he agrees with the president's plan to send 20,000 more troops into Iraq.

"My feeling is that we have to do all that we can to continue our efforts to stabilize Baghdad," said LaHood, a Republican and longtime supporter of the war efforts who represents Peoria and part of Springfield.

LaHood was one of 12 Republican House members invited to the White House for an hourlong briefing on the president's new war strategy before it is unveiled to the public in a nationally televised speech tonight.

He acknowledged the stakes are high for the president.

"I think the president knows this is one of the most important speeches he'll make," LaHood said. "His legacy will be two things - his leadership after 9-11 and Iraq."

LaHood acknowledged that his central Illinois constituents are concerned about the war. Recent polls show a majority of Americans don't approve of Bush's handling of the war, a sentiment that was reflected in the November

elections.

"They're concerned about the cost and they're concerned about the cost of lives," LaHood said of his constituents.

However, LaHood said efforts by some Democrats to restrict funding needed to send additional troops won't sit well with the public.

"I think that would be a disgrace," he said. "I think that would be a political stunt that would backfire on anybody who tries to do it."

Freshman Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, whose district includes Galesburg and part of Springfield, said he's strongly opposed to increasing troop numbers in Iraq.

"I think this is a last-ditch attempt by this president to try to save what I don't think can be saved," Hare said in a telephone interview. "We just lost another soldier from Galesburg in my district.

"The only way, in my opinion, that we're ever going to get peace in that country is through diplomatic efforts."

He joins Illinois' two Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, who last week criticized the proposal to increase troops. Hare also called for a timeline for withdrawal.

However, all three Illinois Democrats said they would not want to cut financial support to troops already there.

Hare also protested the $1 billion in economic aid to Iraq that President Bush is proposing to rebuild Iraq.

"One of the things I'm also a little bit miffed about is that the president wants $1 billion for infrastructure in Iraq and yet we still have vehicles that are not armor-fitted for the men and women serving over there," Hare said. "I think he has this thing backwards."

The money should be used to make up the shortfall in funding for health care for U.S. veterans, said Hare, who learned Tuesday he was assigned to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

He had sought the assignment to continue efforts by his longtime boss and predecessor, retired Rep. Lane Evans.

 

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.