WASHINGTON – Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski took to the Senate floor Thursday to respond to anti-war activists who occupied her Capitol Hill office in protest three times in four weeks, saying she will continue to vote for war funding in order to support the troops.
“You can sit-in every single day. You can follow me throughout my Senate career. You can follow me to my grave,” Mikulski shouted at the conclusion of her speech on a supplemental funding request pending in Congress.
“I will not vote to, in any way, harm the men and women in the U.S. military, nor will I cut off the support to their families…I’m going to support this (Democratic Leader Harry) Reid resolution.”
While the bill provides money to support President Bush’s proposed troop surge, it also funds tools, such as body armor, and health care for when the troops return home.
“All the good things in the bill we absolutely agree with, (but) you don’t need to keep funding active combat to keep funding those things,” said frustrated protester Gordon Clark in response to Mikulski’s speech. “This is ridiculous…(we’re) definitely planning to come back.”
The group of about 20 protesters contend that even though Mikulski voted against the war in 2002, and continues to speak out for troop withdrawal, the only actions that will end their sit-ins are a “no” vote on the supplemental bill, or the inclusion of an amendment to bring the troops home by December 2007, Clark said.
The supplemental budget bill sets a deadline for troop withdrawal of March 31, 2008.
During the protests in her office, Mikulski, a former activist herself, allowed her constituents to stay and read the names of deceased Maryland soldiers and tape their pictures on the wall, as long as they respected her office staff and the rules of the Senate office building during the three protests staged on Feb. 15, Feb. 27 and March 13.
Four protesters defied the latter request when they refused to leave the office at the 6 p.m. closing time on Feb. 27 and were subsequently arrested by Capitol Hill police for unlawful entry.
Protesters also visited the offices of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as part of a national movement, Voices for Creative Nonviolence’s Occupation Project that began Feb. 5 with talks on the emergency supplemental bill.
“We are on your side,” Mikulski said to the “well-intentioned liberal activists,” but “I can’t vote against” the supplemental funding bill.