After the Berkeley City Council called the U.S. Marines "uninvited and unwelcome intruders," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., introduced the Semper Fi Act on Feb. 6 to rescind the funds earmarked for Berkeley in the 2008 fiscal year Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Last Thursday, the Senate voted 41-57 to defeat DeMint's amendment, prompting DeMint to say that he is "extremely disappointed that the U.S. Senate was not willing to stand up for our Marines when they do so much to stand up for us."
"When Berkeley officials called our Marines uninvited and unwelcome intruders it was outrageous and their actions should have consequences," DeMint said in a statement. "If Berkeley wants to insult our troops, they should do it with their own money."
The Chez Panisse Foundation, which provides organic school lunches to Berkeley schools, was one of the programs that faced a cut.
"I'm delighted to see that a bill that was really political grandstanding went down in such an overwhelming defeat," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. "We are thankful that people realize that earmarks for such important things should not be in jeopardy because of some action taken by any local government."
Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston of San Ramon
Houston has said he moved to pull the money because Berkeley has "embarrassed the country." The bill will be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee within the next 30 days, said Houston spokesman Keith Ochwat.
Bates said he is not worried about Houston's bill.
"He's running for a supervisor seat in Contra Costa County and he's trying to put himself in front of an issue that will get his name in the newspaper. I don't think anyone thinks this has a chance," Bates said.
The Berkeley City Council set off a national fire storm on Jan. 29 when it made the comments about the Marine-recruiting center in downtown. The council had planned to send a letter to the Marines stating their position. On Feb. 12, the council voted 7-2 not to send the letter and to clarify the earlier motion with new language that recognizes "the recruiters' right to locate in our city and the right of others to protest or support their presence."
The council let stand four items it passed at its previous meeting, including one encouraging "all people to avoid cooperation with the Marine Corps recruiting station and applaud residents and organizations such as CodePink" that "impede, passively or actively" the work of military recruiters.
The statement written by Bates and Councilmembers Max Anderson, Linda Maio and Darryl Moore says the Council opposes "the recruitment of our young people into this war," yet emphasizes that "we deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces."
The council also simultaneously gave the anti-war group CodePink a parking space and noise ordinance permit to protest the Marine recruiting station. Although an estimated 30,000 people sent angry emails and letters to City Hall over the anti-military statement, the Council refused to apologize.
The Marine Corps opened its recruiting center at 64 Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley in late 2006. A spokeswoman said they have no plans to leave.
Contact Kristin Bender at email@example.com or 510-208-6453.