James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Support the President, Not the Troops

Robert Novak reports on a loyal Republican who was punished for being right:

At the end of the last Congress, the DeLay-headed leadership purged [13-term Rep. Chris]Smith from the Veterans chairmanship and from the committee itself for wanting $2.6 billion more for the Veterans Administration.

Smith's vindication came June 28 when the Bush administration admitted that its estimate of 23,553 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for medical treatment fell far short of the real number: 103,000. The VA's reason was that it relied on two-year-old assumptions. The administration estimated its need for additional funds, coincidentally or not, at Smith's $2.6 billion.

Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, who was leapfrogged by the GOP leadership over two more senior congressmen to replace Smith as chairman, at first followed the party line by saying the shortfall could be covered by shifting funds. However, Buyer quickly had to change his position and say more funds were needed, just as Smith had insisted all along.
There is little doubt Smith would easily have defeated Buyer had there been an open vote of the House Republican Conference without intervention.

Similarly, Smith would be the conference's most likely choice for the International Relations Committee chairmanship against two other well-regarded conservatives, Reps. Dan Burton of Indiana and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. But the choice will be made by the DeLay-dominated Steering Committee, and so Smith is a long shot.

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