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Defense Appropriations

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to express great concern about the process, about what has been happening as it relates to the Defense appropriations bill. I have supported every appropriations bill for our troops since coming here to the Senate, and before in the House. I am deeply concerned about what I see in terms of abuse of the process, abuse of power involved in this debate on a bill that is critical for our troops, a bill that without the controversial provisions I believe would have overwhelming, positive, if not unanimous, support from this Chamber.

I want to start by reading a portion of a letter from five distinguished retired generals from the Marines, the Army, and the Navy, that speaks to this in a way that I think we should all be listening to. This is a letter to our leaders in the Senate:

We are very concerned that the FY2006 Defense Appropriations Bill may be further delayed by attaching a controversial non-defense legislative provision to the defense appropriations conference report.

We know that you share our overarching concern for the welfare and needs of our troops. With 160,000 troops fighting in Iraq, another 18,000 in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more around the world defending this country, Congress must finish its work and provide them the resources they need to do their job.

We believe that any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress' ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need in a timely fashion.

It goes on from there.

Mr. President, I would not agree more. I ask unanimous consent that the full text of this letter be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

December 17, 2005.

Hon. Bill Frist,
Majority Leader,
Hon. Harry Reid,
Minority Leader,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC

DEAR SENATOR FRIST AND SENATOR REID:

We are very concerned that the FY2006 Defense Appropriations Bill may be further delayed by attaching a controversial non-defense legislative provision to the defense appropriations conference report.

We know that you share our overarching concern for the welfare and needs of our troops. With 160,000 troops fighting in Iraq, another 18,000 in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more around the world defending this country, Congress must finish its work and provide them the resources they need to do their job.

We believe that any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress' ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need in a timely fashion.

The passion and energy of the debate about drilling in ANWR is well known, and a testament to vibrant debate in our democracy. But it is not helpful to attach such a controversial non-defense legislative issue to a defense appropriations bill. It only invites delay for our troops as Congress debates an important but controversial non-defense issue on a vital bill providing critical funding for our nation's security.

We urge you to keep ANWR off the defense appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Joseph P. Hoar,
General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.).

Anthony C. Zinni,
General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.).

Claudia J. Kennedy,
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Lee F. Gunn,
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Stephen A. Cheney,
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.).

Ms. STABENOW. Now is the time--past time. There is no reason for us to be here today on this Defense bill. This could have been done. We could have made it very clear that the dollars are there--critical dollars are there--for our troops, if it were not for an effort to subvert the process and the rules of the Senate and the efforts that have gone on to put things into this Defense bill that should not be there.

Now, I am one who does not support drilling in ANWR. I have never voted for that. There is no relationship, in my mind, to energy independence or national security, as we look at the small amount of reserves that are there versus the tradeoff in terms of our environment and the commitment we have made as it relates to our environment. But regardless of that, that deserves a separate debate. We have had that debate on the floor of this Senate. We have had it a number of times.

People have a right to have that debate and to be able to cast their votes concerning that issue, but it should not be included in a bill to support our troops, the men and women who are serving right now around the world. They deserve better than that. We can do better than that. I would hope we could clean up this bill, get those provisions out of there that have been put in for political purposes because they have not been able to pass in other ways, and be able to strictly focus on a bill to support our men and women in the armed services.

What are some of the things in this underlying bill?

Well, it provides a 3.1-percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel. I support that. I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the aisle do, as well.

It provides an increase for basic housing allowance to eliminate out-of-pocket housing expenses for military personnel. It is critical.

It provides $142 million for body armor and personal protection equipment. How many times have we heard concerns regarding this? This $142 million is important. It needs to get passed now. It should not be part of a political struggle that has been going on in the Senate, in the House, and with the administration.

The bill would provide $12 million to provide treatment for soldiers with head and blast injuries who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Again, on the equipment end, it would provide $1.4 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force.

It provides $170 million for up-armored HMMWVs and another $464 million for humvee recapitalization.

It provides $293 million for Army night vision equipment.

It provides $1 billion to address equipment shortfalls for the Guard and Reserve. I can tell you, having talked with so many of our Guard and reservists, and having been there when they have left and been there when they have come home, we owe them a budget that will address the equipment shortfalls.

We also owe them efforts to support their families and the needs of their families as they have been deployed and redeployed and redeployed into Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world.

We are past time to get this done. There is no reason we should see the maneuvers going on that have gotten in the way of passing this bill.

There is no reason. I hope they do not succeed. These maneuvers should not succeed. I hope we will say no and that we will then pass quickly the bill that has been worked on in good faith by so many.

Let me give an example of another piece of legislation where this was done. I commend both the distinguished Senator from Virginia and my colleague, the distinguished Senator from Michigan, Senators Warner and Levin, who worked through a complicated Defense reauthorization bill. There were a lot of similar kinds of issues of extraneous measures being placed into that bill, but they worked through it. They kept their eye on the primary goal, which was to provide support for our men and women who are serving us, who are placed in harm's way, who are fighting terrorism, who are fighting to protect our families and our country, keep the focus on them, which they did. They have been able to produce a bill that is for the troops, for the Department of Defense, for the defense of our country, without extraneous measures in the legislation. I commend both of them for their leadership. It is an example time and again of what these two distinguished Senators have been able to do because they kept their focus where it should be--on the defense of our country and the support of those who are defending us around the globe.

Compare that to what is in front of us today. Again, these measures are worth debating. The other issues that were put into the Defense bill deserve debate, have had debate on the floor of the Senate. They deserve that debate. They deserve up-or-down votes. But to take the excellent work that has been done on the Defense appropriations bill and put these together is plain wrong. I hope we will be successful in separating these issues so that those of us who strongly support this appropriations bill, who strongly support our troops, will have an opportunity to, again, hopefully, vote yes unanimously, without the debate on other issues such as drilling in ANWR where many of us are strongly in opposition to that issue and others that were placed in this bill.

This is an opportunity for us to stand together, as we have done, as we will do on Defense reauthorization, as we have done so many times in the Senate, standing up on a bipartisan basis for our troops. I hope we will be able to do so again at the end of the day when this bill finally comes before us. I am hopeful that my colleagues will join with me in separating the controversial provisions unrelated to defense from this bill and give us the opportunity to support our men and women in the manner which they deserve.

I yield the floor.

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