Senate Democrats

REID: IT TAKES MORE THAN TOUGH TALK TO PROTECT THE NATION

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on President Bush’s speech today to the American Legion. A fact check on the president’s speech follows below.

“President Bush has mastered the rhetoric of the post-9/11 world, but his decision to outsource the control of America’s largest ports to the government of Dubai shows he still doesn’t understand the realities. Even in today’s speech, we heard tough talk, but no acknowledgment that the decision to sell our ports, as well as his Administration’s other national security policies, have made America less secure. Democrats understand that it takes more than tough talk to protect the American people in a post-9/11 world. It takes smart policies, strong U.S. leadership, and real resources as well.”

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Fact Check: President Bush

Bush: “We have made health care a top priority for my administration. With my 2007 budget, we will increase the VA Benefit since 2001. Our increased funding has given almost a million more veterans access to the V.A. Medical care system.” [2/24/06]

FACT: The Bush Budget Falls Short on Veterans’ Healthcare. According to veterans’ advocacy groups, Bush’s VA budget falls about $1.3 billion short of what is needed for medical care, given the increasing demand for services and the rising cost of care and basic operating costs. (Disabled Veterans press release, February 8, 2006)

FACT: Bush Budget Will Make Military Retirees Pay More. “The Bush administration wants many military retirees to pay more for health care, a proposal that could force the Republican-run Congress to choose between savvy politics and budget discipline. Annual health care costs for the military have doubled to nearly $38 billion in the past five years, nearly one dollar of every $12 the Pentagon spends. The price tag is projected to soar to $64 billion by 2015. To help contain those costs, President Bush’s proposal includes higher prescription drug co-payments for all beneficiaries of military health care except those on active duty, and increased annual enrollment fees for military retirees under age 65.” [USA Today, 2/21/06]

Bush: “Since January of 2002, disability claims are being processed 63 days faster than they were when I took office. In the last four years, we’ve committed almost $3 billion to modernize expanding facilities so more veterans can get care closer to home. We’re working to ensure that veterans with the greatest need, those with service disabilities and lower incomes and special needs are given priority. [2/24/06]

FACT: The Bush Budget Doesn’t Plan for the Future. The President’s budget would:

Fail to provide sufficient funds for staffing and training in the Veterans Benefits Administration to address a claims backlog that is quickly approaching one million. (American Legion press release, February 7, 2006)

Fail to provide funding for the recruiting, hiring, and training of VA staff to replace baby-boomer generation retirees from the federal service over the next five years, which will impact the efficiency and quality of claims decisions. (Veterans of Foreign Wars press release, February 6, 2006)

Bush: “It’s also been a test for the Iraqi security forces. General Casey reports they’re doing a fine job of enforcing curfew and working to restore order and calm.” [2/24/06]

FACT: Iraqi Security Forces Face Significant Challenges. “U.S. intelligence and military officials warned Thursday that the next few days could determine whether Iraqi soldiers and police, overwhelmingly dominated by Arabs from Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, will heed commands to quell the unrest or dissolve their units and fight on the basis of ethnic and religious loyalties. ‘The current situation is, indeed, a major challenge to the Iraqi security forces,’ said a senior military official who is familiar with the situation in Iraq. ‘It is, indeed, a time at which the cohesion of the various security elements will be seriously tested.’ Sectarian militias replaced Iraqi government forces in some areas hit by violence triggered by Wednesday’s bombing of one of Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines. In other areas, Shiite militiamen or members of Sunni insurgent groups have infiltrated police and military units.” [Knight Ridder, 2/23/06]

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