A Military Spouse's Reaction to House Bill

The House of Representatives passed an Iraq war spending bill today that requires a troop withdrawal by September 2008. The White House is threatening to veto the bill. John Ydstie speaks with Kelly Simer, whose husband is serving with the National Guard in Iraq.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And I'm John Ydstie. Coming up on the program, we conclude our series profiling injured war veterans. Today, we hear from a retired Marine sergeant who served in Vietnam.

BRAND: But first, the House of Representatives has voted to approve additional funding for the war in Iraq by a 218-212 margin, breaking marginally(ph) along party lines. The bill would also require the withdrawal of U.S. forces by September of 2008.

The president wasted no time reacting to the bill's passage.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Here in Washington, members of both parties recognize that our most solemn responsibility is to support our troops in the war on terror. Yet today, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law and brings us no closer to getting our troops the resources they need to do their job.

BRAND: And President Bush reaffirmed his promise to veto the bill.

YDSTIE: Joining us by phone is Kelly Simer in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her husband, Joshua, is a major in the Minnesota National Guard and he's been gone a little over a year in Iraq. They have a 10-month-old baby. Welcome to the program, Ms. Simer.

Ms. KELLY SIMMER (Military spouse): Hello.

YDSTIE: What do you think of this vote that's just occurred in the House that calls for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq within eight months?

Ms. SIMER: Well, I think there needs to be more detailed (unintelligible) about what it entails. To me, it's important that our troops finish the job there even if it requires him staying a little bit longer, I'd rather have the job that my husband has been doing over there completed before they come home.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. So you don't want any deadline place?

Ms. SIMER: Not at this point. I also worry that it puts our troops at risk to put a deadline, because all that tells the insurgents over there and the terrorists over there is that if they wait a little bit longer and to a certain date, then we'll be gone and that they can move in.

YDSTIE: On the other hand, I imagined there must be some emotional conflict because you have a ten-month-old child and probably want your husband home as soon as possible.

Ms. SIMER: Well, that's far we've been able to handle it. And to me, it's more important that this whole year (unintelligible) has been gone, not go to waste and not go for nothing. If they can get the job done over there, and all this - all the sacrifices that we made so far, I just - I don't want them to be for nothing.

YDSTIE: Do you get a sense that this debate and vote in the House and the debate on the other side of the Capitol and the Senate is getting us any closer to ending this war?

Ms. SIMER: Not particularly. I put the task of ending the war to our troops. I think if we left it up to them they'd be able to get the job done. I sometimes worry that the debate in Washington is just the direction from that.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. You think it's damaging the morale of your husband and the other troops over there?

Ms. SIMER: I think they find it frustrating. I know a lot of them wanted to get the job done over there. We've actually had some friends who've been killed and wounded over there. And my husband would like to see this through, so that they - those folks weren't wounded or that they didn't die in vain.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. How do you feel about the motives of House members? Do you feel like people are voting for what they believe as best? Or do you feel like this is basically a political argument and people are making a political stand?

Ms. SIMER: To me it's political, a political stand on this, and I get frustrated sometimes because it seems like many in Congress, one on both sides of the aisle, haven't listened to our troops, and that in some cases they're responding too little too late. A lot of things in D.C. are frustrating.

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: Kelly Simer of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her husband Joshua(ph) is a major in the Minnesota National Guard. He's in Iraq for a little over a year. Kelly, thanks very much for joining us.

Ms. SIMER: You're welcome.

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