WASHINGTON – The mayor of Berkeley, Calif., has issued an apology to servicemen and women serving in Iraq following a flap over a City Council vote that told the U.S Marine recruiting station there it should leave, and if it doesn't, is staying only as "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."
The apology follows the introduction this week of the Semper Fi Act of 2008, pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would rescind more than $2 million in federal earmarks destined for Berkeley. DeMint was joined by five other Republican lawmakers in introducing the bill Wednesday after they were angered over the Berkeley City Council's actions.
A companion bill entered in the House has the support of 45 Republicans. No Democrats are supporting either bill.
Following a public uproar, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates argued Wednesday that the council's actions last week shouldn't be linked to federal money dedicated to schools and other services, according to tan San Jose Mercury News. Bates is a retired U.S. Army captain.
"There's really no correlation between federal funds for schools, water ferries and police communications systems and the council's actions, for God's sake," Bates said.
But, he said: "We apologize for any offense to any families of anyone who may serve in Iraq. We want them to come home and be safe at home."
Berkeley city officials indicated they likely would withhold now sending a letter containing the message they agreed on at last week's council meeting.
On the introduction of his bill Wednesday, DeMint released a statement saying, "Berkeley needs to learn that their actions have consequences. Patriotic American taxpayers won’t sit quietly while Berkeley insults our brave Marines and tries to run them out of town. Berkeley City Council members have shown complete ingratitude to our military and their families, and the city doesn’t deserve a single dime of special pet project handouts."
The list of items that DeMint's bill target include:
DeMint's office provided a preliminary list of items that would be subject to his proposal:
— $975,000 for the University of California at Berkeley, for the Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service, which may include establishing an endowment, and for cataloguing the papers of Congressman Robert Matsui.
— $750,000 for the Berkeley/Albana ferry service.
— $243,000 for the Chez Panisse Foundation, for a school lunch initiative to integrate lessons about wellness, sustainability and nutrition into the academic curriculum.
— $94,000 for a Berkeley public safety interoperability program.
— $87,000 for the Berkeley Unified School District, nutrition education program.