Jenkins backs Bush aid plan

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
Tennessee's 1st District Congressman William Jenkins says he voted for the $87 billion military aid plan proposed by President Bush to aid military operations in Iraq, but not without reservations about some portions of the plan.
"I voted for it, but I voted for it with some concerns," said Jenkins, who attended the Carter County Republican Party's pig roast political fundraiser on Saturday afternoon.
The House voted 303-125 on Friday to approve the package to support U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while the Senate also overwhelmingly approved the bill by roll call vote of 87-12. Republican and Democratic lawmakers had argued about if the funding should be made in the form of a loan to be paid back to the United States by Iraqi leadership. Both the Senate and House also stripped roughly $2 billion dollars from the bill for zip code machines and sanitation trucks included as part of the funding for Iraqi municipal governments.
Jenkins said he staunchly supported the $66 billion appropriated to support U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan where the U.S. military remains. He said his concern revolved around the $20.9 billion portion of the bill allocated to rebuilding the infrastructures of the two countries.
"There are a whole lot of places in the United States where $20 billion would come in awfully handy," said Jenkins.
The same day the aid package was passed proved to be one of the deadliest for U.S. forces in Iraq. Four soldiers were killed Friday and several others were injured in two separate ambush attacks near Baghdad. Since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat, 101 soldiers have been killed by hostile fire. The attack was the deadliest against U.S. forces in more than one month when three soldiers were killed outside Tikrit. U.S. and coalition forces are still pursuing Saddam Hussein, rumored to still be hiding out in Iraq.
"I think the president will be re-elected," he said, "but it will be a hard fight."
While he did not believe the nation's ongoing battle to secure Iraq would be a liability to the president or other Republicans in the 2004 election year, Jenkins did feel
Jenkins said the first terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in 1993 along with numerous terrorist attacks against U.S. targets during the 1990s went unpunished. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said President Bush reestablished the nation's role as a superpower.
"We have got to see this thing through," said Jenkins of the nation's war on terrorism. "We will have a tough campaign and we will be hearing a lot of things, some true an some not true."
Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination to challenge President Bush include Gen. Wesley Clark, Massachusetts; North Carolina Sen. John Edwards; Sen. John Kerry, Missouri; Rep. Dick Gephardt; former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean; Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rev. Al Sharpton and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Most have blasted President Bush on his handling of post-war Iraq.
Jenkins also made a point to talk up the need for new trade policies that kept manufacturing jobs in the United States. Corporations' ability to pay miniscule wages in Mexico, Latin American and Southeast Asia have sent millions of manufacturing jobs overseas during the past two decades. A fact Jenkins said the president and Congress must address quickly.
Carter County has seen better than 600 jobs - many of them from the manufacturing sector - leave the county in the last two years. Jenkins said the reasons were many, and one of the reasons was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994.
Speaking to dozens of fundraiser attendees, Jenkins said Congress was seeking to pass an energy bill and also legislation reforming Medicare, including a prescription drug plan.
State lawmakers Sen. Dewey "Rusty" Crowe, R-Johnson City, and Rep. Jerome Cochran, R-Elizabethton, who also attended the fundraiser, said they were working with Tennessee Department of Economic and Development Commissioner Matt Kisber to improve the job outlook in Carter County.