The Republican Congressional delegation here in Texas sure does seem hell-bent on providing campaign fodder for their opponents. Look at the slapdown handed out by the Abiliene Reporter-News.
Before its summer recess, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed and sent to the Senate a $10 billion military construction bill, giving House members the credentials to campaign as bona fide backers of the armed services.
Their approval, however, does not reflect the steps by which the final bill was put together. A single vote in the House on July 21, in fact, made the difference in the future quality of life at Dyess Air Force Base and directly exerted a negative impact on Abilene's economy.
By a margin of 212-211, the House rejected a Bush administration request for $500 million in later military housing construction, some of which would have been at Dyess.
Who opposed the administration on this matter? Not House Democrats, including Rep. Charles Stenholm of Abilene, who voted to support the White House and our troops by increasing military housing funds.
No, the opponents who shot down the White House plan were House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock and other GOP House members pounded into line by DeLay - who broke House rules by extending the roll call 23 minutes beyond its 15-minute limit so he could hammer reluctant Republicans into getting the votes to defeat Bush's proposal.
Sound bizarre? The absurdity defies comprehension.
Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards called this vote ''a slap in the face to America's military families. They have a right to be outraged, and they will be.''
What sort of rationale did DeLay and House Republicans present for opposing a Republican president whose re-election drive is based so centrally on the military's role in the war against terrorism? Supposedly, cutting $500 million out of future military construction was meant to show that the Republican-controlled Congress, which has been justly criticized for its free-spending habits, was actually capable of some fiscal restraint.
Given the billions Congress has thrown around during the last four years, it's laughable to think that trimming $500 million from military housing would ''prove'' a conservative attitude toward spending.
Stenholm's record as a fiscal conservative doesn't need to be proved. Ask former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, if you have any doubts on that score.
Stenholm's advocacy for Dyess is also widely acknowledged. The final House bill as passed included $28.6 million for military family housing at Dyess plus $3.3 million for a new Dyess refueling vehicle maintenance/ crash rescue facility that Stenholm had requested.
Meanwhile, Neugebauer has campaigned in Abilene's new District 19 as a strong supporter of Dyess. Evidently, that depends on whether the House majority leader says it's OK.