One of the provisions of a defense bill that cleared the Senate last night seeks to help folks who worked at the Iowa Army Ammunition plant near Burlington. Senator Tom Harkin says it’s about fairness. Harkin and Missouri Senator Kit Bond cosponsored an amendment to the defense spending bill. The proposal makes those who worked at Iowa and Missouri nuclear weapons plants and now suffer from cancer automatically eligible for federal compensation. Harkin says many have huge health care bills, and many have died, waiting for the federal government to cover the costs of their cancer care.Harkin says “these workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition plant devoted their lives to our national security, they served their country in good faith and this compensation for their illnesses is long overdue.” The defense bill that includes the compensation cleared the Senate last night. A panel of Senate and House members will meet to draft a compromise defense spending bill, and decide whether this Senate-passed proposal becomes law………Iowa’s Democratic Senator was in the audience for a sneak preview of a controversial documentary that attacks the Bush Administration. Senator Tom Harkin saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 last night in D.C. Harkin saw just half of the film because he had to return to the Senate last night to vote on the defense bill, but Harkin says the first half he saw was “very powerful.” Harkin says it presents the “unvarnished version” of what happened during the 2000 election, and what happened leading up to and during the attacks of September 11th. Harkin says the documentary is “very provocative” and raises a lot of questions. Harkin says he was not fully aware that the White House approved an airlift that took members of the bin Laden family and other Saudis out of the U.S. in the days when all air traffic was grounded in the U.S. after 9/11.Harkin says he’s not saying those bin Laden family members were guilty of anything, but Harkin says at the very least they should have been questioned by American authorities rather than allowed to sneak out of the country. Harkin calls that part of the documentary “quite startling.” Moore attempts in the film to show business links between the Bush and bin Laden families. The Independent 9/11 Commission investigating the attacks reported this month that the F-B-I had approved the Saudis departures and noted that most of bin Laden’s relatives have nothing to do with him. The film opens on 800 screens this weekend. Many republicans are urging a boycott; many democrats, including Harkin, are urging Americans to see the film.Northwest Airlines is seeking federal approval to fly a direct Des Moines to D.C. route. That route will soon be abandoned by Midwest Express at the end of June. Senator Harkin says it’s a promising development. Harkin says “the argument to continue the service is a strong one” and he hopes federal regulators act quickly on Northwest’s request. Harkin says Northwest’s decision to seek the nonstop flight between Des Moines and Washington, D.C. is “good news.” Harkin often flew Midwest Express back and forth to D.C. Iowa’s other Senator, Chuck Grassley, flew that Des Moines to D.C. route infrequently as Grassley’s home in New Hartford is closer to the Eastern Iowa Airport.
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