CONSOLIDATED SECURITY, DISASTER ASSISTANCE, AND CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009--Continued -- (Senate - September 27, 2008)
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Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I rise today at a time of significant financial crisis in our Nation to discuss a program within this continuing resolution that, in my opinion, is the wrong priority at the wrong time.
Over the last 2 years, the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee has brought before the Committee and this Senate legislation to authorize bonus payments for Filipino veterans who fought in World War II. Like my colleague and good friend, Senator Akaka, I respect and honor the sacrifice of the Filipinos in that war, and I respect his tenacity to pass what he believes is a remedy to a wrong.
This is where I unfortunately part with the Senator. After World War II, the Philippines were not left destitute, with America turning a blind eye to their sacrifice and efforts in the war. In fact, the United States has spent millions upon millions of dollars on infrastructure in the Philippines.
However, there are some who think that is not enough. There are some who believe that Filipino veterans deserve to have all the benefits and entitlements that American veterans are afforded. I disagree.
At a time when we have soldiers coming home broken from combat, this bill would designate as an ``emergency'' $198 million to provide a lump-sum payment of $9,000 to Filipino veterans currently living in the Philippines and $15,000 for those Filipino veterans living in the United States.
Mr. President, let me say that again: this would designate the funding I just spoke of as an ``emergency.''
Now, I know how things work around here. Someone's emergency doesn't always seem to be too urgent to other folks. But please, I would like somebody to come to this floor and explain to me how giving Filipino veterans a check for $9,000 or $15,000 can be seen as an emergency. Not when we are debating landmark legislation to shore up our economy, which is suffering so greatly. Not when we have Senators coming to this floor repeatedly arguing that we have so badly underfunded the VA that we need supplemental spending every year just to keep up. Not when there are towns in Texas still cleaning up from the ravages of Hurricane Ike. And not when we have a Forest Service that is broke and must borrow and steal from other agencies to ensure that we can fight against wildfires threatening thousands of people's homes.
Mr. President, I could go on for days talking about true emergencies in our Nation. However, designating a fund for Filipino veterans as an "emergency'' just doesn't pass the smell test. And this is not an insignificant amount of money, Mr. President: we are talking about almost $200 million that could be used for items that truly deserve to be considered emergencies.
I know that we will pass this continuing resolution, and I praise the work that was done on most of this bill. There are a lot of good programs that will get funded because of this bill and the work that was done on it.
Unfortunately, I could not stay silent when I saw that almost $200 million, designated as emergency spending, was going to be spent on non-American veterans for actions taken in the 1940s.
I hope that my colleagues today will take a serious look at the authorization that will come before this Senate in the future to allow this funding to be spent. It is my serious belief, as I hope I spelled out clearly here today, that this funding should not be spent for its intended purpose. Instead, Senators should look at this funding as a way to pay for priorities, either within the VA or other agencies that have been underfunded, that are true emergencies.