Monday, January 10, 2005

Why do Republicans in the House hate the troops?

Representative Christopher H. Smith's removal as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee by the House Republican caucus drew strong protests on Thursday from veterans' groups that praised Mr. Smith as unwilling to toe the Republican Party line.

"The Republicans needed a chairman who would consistently say no to veterans' groups and say yes to the Republican leadership," said Richard B. Fuller, national legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, which has about 22,000 members and is based in Washington. "That meant get rid of Chris Smith."

Mr. Smith, a longtime New Jersey congressman who frequently clashed with party leaders over budgetary issues, wrote 22 veteran-related laws during his four years as chairman and advocated improvements to the G.I. Bill, increased spending for the veterans' health care system and the creation of new loans for young veterans seeking to buy a house....

For the past week, veterans' groups have been lobbying in defense of Mr. Smith. In a Jan. 3 letter to Mr. Hastert, 10 organizations, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America, urged the speaker to keep Mr. Smith as the chairman.

Here's a press release from the VFW:

This week's announcement of a leadership change in the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs was taken as a foreboding sign by the commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

"The ouster of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was clearly a politically driven decision, not one based on performance," said John Furgess, who leads the largest organization of combat veterans in the nation.

"Instead of a message of strength and continuity being sent, what's being communicated loud and clear across the country is that 'your job's in jeopardy if you put principles before politics,'" said Furgess....

In four years as chairman, Congressman Smith pushed through tough legislation that increased G.I. Bill educational benefits by almost 55 percent; increased veterans' healthcare funding by more than 30 percent; provided more protection to activated Reservists and Guardsmen by beefing up the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act; and provided better benefits for disabled servicemembers and surviving spouses, among many other accomplishments....

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