WASHINGTON – Growing tensions between House and Senate Republicans over the war in Iraq, abuse of Iraqi prisoners, tax cuts and budget deficits erupted Wednesday with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) lecturing former POW and Arizona Sen. John McCain (search) about sacrifice and war.
"Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. ... What have we sacrificed?" McCain said. "As mind-boggling as expanding Medicare has been, nothing tops my confusion for cutting taxes during wartime. I don't remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes."
Asked Wednesday about McCain's remarks, Hastert, who was rejected for military service because of a bad shoulder, first joked: "Who? Where's he from? A Republican?"
Then, more seriously, he said: "If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda (two Washington area military hospitals). There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it. And at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically. We want to be able to have the flexibility to do it. That's my reply to John McCain."
McCain stood fast in his reply to Hastert.
"The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops," he said. "All we're called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility."
The conflict erupted as Hastert laid down a budget making it easier to pass future tax cuts regardless of their impact on the federal deficit. McCain and a group of GOP moderates in the Senate want to rein in deficits by making tax cuts harder.
Later, Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the speaker "values Sen. McCain's military service, but he disagrees with him on tax relief."