Udall, protester argue over war funding | VailDaily.com

Udall, protester argue over war funding

John Colson
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesU.S. Rep. Mark Udall discusses efforts to fight the mountain pine beetle while George Newell of Aspen protests the congressman's votes on the Iraq war.

ASPEN ” Colorado Congressman Mark Udall got into a heated exchange with a protester during a brief stop in Aspen on Thursday.

Udall, who is Eagle County’s congressman and is running for election to the U.S. Senate, was on a swing through the state, visiting various communities to talk about proposed legislation to deal with the mountain pine beetle infestation and other topics.

But Thursday, Udall’s plans were momentarily derailed when protester George Newell positioned himself behind the Democratic congressman carrying a sign that stated, “Dump Udall. He Votes For War.” Udall’s recently voted in favor of a $100 billion war bill sought by President Bush.

When one of Udall’s staff tried to get Newell to step away, the protester reacted angrily, saying to the staffer, “That’s assault.”

When Udall joined in with a politely phrased request that Newell get out of the way, Newell responded, “That guy just tried to shove me out of the way.” Newell and Udall then exchanged words about Udall’s recent vote on the war funding bill.

“This guy just voted $100 billion for the war,” Newell told anyone who would listen, to which Udall responded that he also had recently voted “to protect civil liberties, which I have always supported.” Udall said it was his position to “support the warriors, not the war,” and told Newell, “You and I both agree the war ought to end.”

After another anti-war argument from Newell, Udall continued, “You end the war by tying the funding to a different direction, which I have voted consistently to do.”

The congressman then turned back to a waiting gathering of reporters to discuss the infestation of pine bark beetles that is laying waste to huge sections of the state’s mountain forests and prompting growing fears of wildfires.

“We can’t stop the march of the beetle,” Udall said. But, he added, the federal government can reduce the risk of forest fires in communities surrounded by forests.

He pointed to a bill that is in the early stages of consideration in Congress, the Colorado Forest Management Improvement Act of 2007,” which he conceded is “as much about preventing catastrophic wildfires” as it is about forest health. Among other things, it calls for the creation of “fire-risk maps” to aid officials in determining which areas need the most help, and the quickest help.

It also would include Colorado in a program called “fuels for schools,” which is to “help schools use the downed trees as a heating and energy source,” the fact sheet stated.

“We can’t come up with enough cash” for the government to do everything necessary to protect communities from forest fires, Udall said.

“In the end, Mother Nature bats last,” he said. “We just want to keep the game going.”

On another topic, Udall said he generally supports the idea of using mass transit to solve transportation problems in the “rural resort communities” such as Aspen and the I-70 ski towns, though he did not say exactly what kind of mass transit he would prefer.

He also talked about his campaign for the U.S. Senate, promising that his first priority will be to take care of business in his role as a Congressman, at least until the campaign season begins heating up next year.

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