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Monitor Breakfast: David Obey

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with David Obey (D-Wisc.), minority member, House Appropriations Committee.

On why he seeks a $6.5 billion boost in homeland defense spending:

"If we are serious, if we are going to engage in a half a decade or more long struggle against terrorism, you cannot expect the people we're going after to sit back and do nothing. That means we need to beef up our home based defenses. And this package is the best way I know of to begin that process."

On the outlook for his own amendment that would boost that spending:

"It depends on whether some Republicans can lose a wrestling match with their own conscience. A lot of them know this is needed. I wonder how people living along the Houston ship channel are going to vote on the issue of port security. That is a highly vulnerable place. I wonder how people are going to vote who live in districts on the Canadian border. I wonder how people are going to vote who live next to those weapons plants that need shoring up – added security.

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The issue isn't whether people agree with this or not. The issue is the House ought to be able to vote on this. What the House Republican leadership is trying to do is to squeeze the Rules Committee so they don't have to vote on this. ....They think it would be a highly embarrassing vote. It should be a highly embarrassing vote if they vote against it. ...If the House doesn't do it, certainly the Senate is going to add a significant part of this. We are not going to loose this argument. We will get this money. It is just a question of whether we get it sooner or get it later."

OOn the recent meeting between congressional leaders and President Bush:

There was "no engagement whatsoever on the issues. So it was not a meeting, we were potted palms."

On security concerns he shared with the president:

"There are four areas where we think this country is very, very vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could kill a ... lot of people."

On the link between the economy and a sense of security:

"I don't care what you do on the economic stimulus front. If you don't restore a sense of personal security to this country, you are not going to have a significant economic recovery. If people are scared, they are just not going to spend it, they are not gong to move."

On why he thinks the Bush administration opposes additional homeland defense spending:

"I think it is a case of OMB having their vision of how the world ought to work and sometimes you get people running agencies who believe that because they have been CEOs of companies that they are used to running the world without any interference from anyone else. The fact is, we were elected and the president was elected. Mitch [Daniels, OMB Director] wasn't.

I think this issue is being mismanaged by OMB but I am not going to personalize it and I don't want to use inflammatory language. Generically, I think the president and the congress will wind up having mismanaged this issue if we wait until next year to do the things we know are necessary now. ....Talk to the top health people in the 50 states and ask them how many of their counties are prepared to handle a full blown outbreak of a terrorist chemical or biological hit and it will scare the hell out of you."

On outlook for 2003 federal budget:

"I assume that Daniels will be trying to pay for the tax cuts he passed last year by cutting the gizzard out of a lot of education and health and social service and science programs that he has been ideologically opposed to."


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