- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The majority of the Senate’s presidential candidates voted yesterday to keep $100 million in an “emergency” funding bill to provide security at the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Two declared candidates — Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican — voted to strip the funding because they thought it did not belong in an emergency spending measure to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut voted to leave the $100 million in the $121 billion supplemental spending bill, which is heading for Senate passage today. The three are contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Senators voted 51-45 to retain $50 million each for the Republican convention host city of St. Paul, Minn., and the Democratic host city of Denver to cover security costs next summer.

“Since everyone is aware that the conventions are every four years, we can easily budget for and appropriate for the conventions through the normal process,” said Brian Hart, a Brownback spokesman.

An aide to Mr. Obama said his boss supports federal funding for convention security but thinks the money should be provided “through the traditional appropriations process.”

“This is an emergency funding bill,” the aide said, noting that Mr. Obama submitted an amendment to the supplemental bill that provides $103 million more to care for wounded troops.

That measure is “an appropriate use of emergency funding to meet an immediate need,” the aide said.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, was absent from the vote.

Aides for the other senators seeking the presidency did not respond to a late press inquiry.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, authored the amendment aimed at stripping the convention funding from the bill and said those emergency funds could have been used to buy 31,797 sets of body armor and up-armored humvees.

He said he failed to see the emergency in a long-planned event.

“Senators will also have a hard time explaining to the American people that they have been taken by surprise by the conventions when so many senators are running for president, or aspire to be president,” he said.

The money for security at the two nominating conventions was just one example of the pork spending added to the emergency supplemental bill.

The two senators from Minnesota, a Democrat and a Republican, voted to keep the funding, as did the two senators from Colorado, also of different parties.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who has not announced whether he will seek the presidency, voted to remove the funding from the supplemental bill.

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