Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is outlining his priorities for the upcoming Congressional session after his party takes control of both chambers. In his first conference call with the media since last week’s election, Harkin says it’s a “new landscape” in Washington.
Harkin says “We Democrats look forward to charting a new direction in the next Congress. Certainly, I intend to hit the ground running as chairman of agriculture and as chairman of the second largest appropriations committee dealing with health and education and labor and N-I-H and a lot of other related agencies. I want to build, first of all, on the progress we made in the 2002 Farm Bill, which has been well received by our nation’s farmers and rural communities.”
Harkin says his top priority come January will be recrafting the next incarnation of the Farm Bill. Harkin says “Regrettably, the full promise of that Farm Bill has not been fulfilled. The Bush administration and the Republican Congress have siphoned off billions of dollars that we dedicated to conservation, rural economic development, renewable energy and ag research. They short-changed rural America and reneged on commitments in the Farm Bill that President Bush signed in 2002. We have to undo that damage.”
Perhaps one of next year’s biggest battles in Congress will be the war in Iraq. The United States’ top commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, spoke before Congress on Wednesday, saying a phased withdrawal of troops is not the way to go. Abizaid favors a build-up of the effort to train more Iraqi forces which may involve sending in still more U.S. troops.
Harkin disagrees with the general. Harkin says “Obviously, he’s doing what the Bush administration wants him to do. He’s just absolutely wrong in his approach. There are a lot of other generals who disagree with him. This is the kind of civil war where our troops just don’t need to be involved. General Abizaid is looking backward. He’s not looking forward.”
Harkin favors the immediate removal of U.S. forces from Iraq, calling the war there “a fiasco of mismanagement and misjudgment.” Harkin says, “I think the troops need to come home as soon as possible. The situation in Iraq is not a militarily solvable one. It’ll have to be solved politically and it can only be solved by the Iraqis themselves.”