.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

John Kline and Veterans

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

I've seen a number of people, presumably veterans, write letters to the editor in support of John Kline, insisting that he is a strong supporter of veterans issues. And Kline has even devoted one of his many direct mail campaigns to promoting his record of support for veterans, while smearing Coleen for her alleged disrespect toward veterans. Given his own 25-year record of service in the Marines, Kline seems to believe he can take veterans' support for granted.

In more ways than you might think.

A close examination of Kline's voting record in Congress reveals weak support for veterans. And we'll be discussing those votes over the remaining days of the campaign. But for now, we'll just discuss two ways in which Kline is abusing the trust veterans have placed in him. One has to deal with Kline's distortion of his own voting record, to make it appear that his support for veterans is stronger than it is. The other is the story of a time when John Kline told a group of Minnesota veterans, point-blank, that partisanship is more important to him than they are.

As our campaign has already pointed out, we've researched a number of Kline's votes in Congress where:

He voted against debt assistance and job training for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan , and he voted against expanding TRICARE to reservists and members of the National Guard. These are the kind of votes which earned John Kline a 0% rating from the Disabled American Veterans in 2004 and 2005.

As I said, we'll get into the specifics of those votes in future posts. But in fairness to Kline, we're not going to go out of our way to call out votes he's cast that make him look good; that's his job. So it's really striking that one of the actions he's proudest of on veterans issues is his work on to implement a policy known as "concurrent receipt".

For decades, disabled veterans had their pensions reduced by the amount of the disability benefit they received. This is certainly a policy which harms disabled veterans, and so Kline deserves credit for working to implement "concurrent receipt" of both pension and disability. The striking part is that is Kline only accomplished a partial phase-out of the policy over 10 years, while he has stubbornly and consistently ignored legislation which would put a full and immediate end to the policy. As we pointed out last month:

[T]his "unfair policy" hasn't ended; rather, it is being slowly phased out over a 10-year period. And even then, veterans whose disabilities are rated at less than 50% will still be subject to a reduction in their pension.

We go on to list in detail the numerous opportunities Kline, as a member of the House Armed Services Commitee, had to enact a much stronger bill, and how he refused to make even the token gesture of co-sponsoring it.

Remember, this is a bill Kline himself points to as evidence of his support for veterans --- in fact, it's one of only two bills he's mentioned in any of his numerous attack mailers. If this is the high point of his time in Congress, it speaks quite poorly about his overall record.

And speaking of sponsorship, it gets worse. The Minnesota chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, a non-partisan group, reported in April (emphasis added):

Without naming any specific elected officials, I want to relate a couple of shameful incidents we experienced on our visit this year just to point out the general attitude toward veterans we experienced while in Washington.


Another member from Minnesota of the House of Representatives we visited, when given a list of veterans’ bills that the DAV supports with the members from Minnesota that have either authored or co-authored, made this statement. "These bills are from the __________(party), I will only endorse and co-author __________(party) bills". Obviously, the right party did not author the bills. I am sorry, but I cannot remember ever being asked what party I belonged to when I was inducted into the military. When you go to the VA Hospital, are you asked "are you Republican or Democrat?" Why have bills helping veterans become a partisan issue?

As I said, the DAV is a non-partisan organization, and they clearly went to great pains, despite their disappointment and frustration, to remain non-partisan by not naming names. However, a significant number of veterans support Coleen's run for Congress, and have confirmed to us that the legislator who refused to support veterans' bills authored by the "other" party is none other than John Kline.

Think about that for a moment. A group of Minnesota disabled veterans went to Congress for the sole purpose of talking to the Minnesota congressional delegation about helping disabled veterans. And John Kline had the nerve to tell them, to their faces, that supporting the Republican party is more important to him than they are.

As with almost all other legislation, Kline has voted in a partisan manner on veterans bills. And the Republican party, by and large, has not been a friend to veterans.

(Disclaimer: This blog post is not a position statement. It is a historical document examining the gulf between John Kline's rhetoric in support of veterans, and his actions.)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home