STATE OF THE UNION
‘We can all see that growth is slowing’
- President Bush
In his address yesterday, acknowledging rising food and gas prices, increasing unemployment and turmoil in the housing and financial markets
Isle senators criticize hit on earmarks
Bush tackles domestic and economic issues in his final talk to the nation
» President Bush’s final State of the Union address
Hawaii U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka strongly criticized President Bush's State of the Union speech yesterday, with Inouye saying it went into "dangerous territory" and Akaka calling it "unfortunate."
Both Democrats said Bush's call to curtail congressional funding through earmarking spending without public hearings would hurt Hawaii.
"One should not take anything personally, but I have this reputation for putting in earmarks but I can justify every one," Inouye said in a interview after the speech.
Inouye had $183 million in earmarks attached to the 2008 defense appropriations bill, including $27.5 million for the Hawaii federal health network and $24 million for the Maui space surveillance system.
"The East-West Center was an earmark. People don't realize that," Inouye said.
Akaka also defended the use of earmarks.
"Earmarks are Congress' way of ensuring that the federal government addresses the needs of Hawaii and every other state. Earmarks allow Congress to direct funds to specific needs such as affordable housing, education and health care," Akaka said in a news release issued after the speech.
Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said, "It is unfortunate that President Bush has once again fallen short in his responsibility to lead this great nation of ours into a future of prosperity for all."
While noting that Bush promised to spend more to help wounded veterans, Akaka said the president's budget proposals "have repeatedly cut funding for veterans, and that the only reason spending on veterans programs has increased is because Congress raised the level of spending."
Inouye also said he was concerned that Bush described Iran much as he had talked about Iraq before invading the country.
"When he started talking about Iran, my ears perked up. I have heard this all before, and it doesn't make me happy," said Inouye, who was one of 23 senators to vote against authorizing the Iraq war.
"This is all dangerous territory. The language was provocative and suggestive," Inouye said.