Bill Sali

Sixty years ago, U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall prayed that God would "give us clear vision, that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything."

Those words are moving in their simplicity and honesty. Only with the grace of God, with strong values, deep conviction of principle and ongoing willingness to listen and learn can leaders gain "clear vision" of their responsibilities to citizens. When we believe in something - and stand firm in our principles and values - we gain a clear compass and a clear conscience to do the right thing for our country.

Unfortunately, Congress has a history of doing otherwise. Sadly, votes are not always black and white, choices between obvious good and transparent evil. Too often legislation is a confusing cocktail of essential items laced with pure political pork. When there are 10 things in a bill that you support and five things you don't, pork politics compels your vote according to your stake in the political smorgasbord.

A prime example is the vote held recently in Congress on the measure to set a strict timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq. The House of Representatives voted 218-212 in favor of the Democrat-led legislation. I voted against the proposal, because I believe that a publicly-declared timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq will hurt our troops and damage national security.

How disheartening that Speaker Pelosi and her House lieutenants included in the bill the worst, rawest form of political bribery - spending on the parochial pet projects of wavering Members of Congress. By including everything from funding for Gulf Coast levees and shrimp subsidies to peanut storage money and a spinach program, Speaker Pelosi bought the votes of reluctant Congressmen - some who want an immediate pullout and some who don't really support a timeline at all.

Mrs. Pelosi's bill even included badly needed money for rural Northwestern schools, counties and highway districts. For Idaho alone, the bill provided more than $23 million for schools and counties - an extension of the "Craig-Wyden" funds. This item was included specifically so my Pacific Northwest colleagues and I would have to choose between a vote for the Democrat troop pull-out plan or a difficult vote against schools and roads.

If House Democrat leadership truly agrees with me that relief is needed for our rural schools and counties, they should be willing to permit a straight up-or-down vote. I have introduced legislation in the House to accomplish this, and Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo have introduced identical legislation on the Senate.

It shocks and infuriates me to see Mrs. Pelosi and the Democrat majority in Congress use Idaho's schoolchildren and economic infrastructure as pawns in the War against America's enemies.

It is wrong for Democrats to use political bribery to enact their military micromanagement, especially so wrong-headed a strategy as the one that passed the House. How ironic that Mrs. Pelosi was unwilling to impose a deadline on herself and her operatives in the arm-twisting battle for sufficient votes to pass her bill, but she is more than willing to impose a deadline on American military personnel fighting a real war in Iraq.

Last week in Iraq, terrorists used children as decoys to drive a car through a security checkpoint. After making it through the checkpoint, the terrorists detonated the car with the children in the back seat. This is the kind of enemy America faces in Iraq. They are not rational. They are not patriots. They care nothing for human life or dignity. They are murderers, and they must be stopped - on their soil, not ours.

Tying the war against America's enemies in Iraq with issues here at home is politics as its worst.

Now, more than ever, Congress needs "clear vision." Our nation deserves leaders who will stand for what is right, however difficult that might be. The pork politics of the Democrat's Iraq funding bill resulted in Congress retreating from principle and standing for nothing that is honorable. By proudly proclaiming victory in passing their bill, Democrat leaders have asked our county at large, to join them in preparing to fall for anything.


Bill Sali

William T. "Bill" Sali, represents Idaho's First Congressional District.

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