EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN SECURITY AND RECONSTRUCTION ACT, 2004
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, 2 weeks ago when the Appropriations Committee marked up this $87 billion supplemental spending request from the President, we spent an entire day attempting to improve one of the largest supplemental requests in our history. Most of the amendments voted on that day were defeated on party-line votes, but the issues raised remain unresolved and continue to engage this body and the American people. We voted to send this request to the floor without prejudice, and it is no surprise that there has been tremendous interest in continuing to debate the substance of the funding proposed for Iraq, and the timing for disbursing that funding. The interest in this bill reflects the broader concerns that persist about the direction of our policy in Iraq.
We need to take as much time as necessary to review the administration's plans to rebuild Iraq. By way of comparison, when Congress approved the Marshall plan, it spent 11 days debating an authorization bill submitted by the Truman administration before appropriating any funds. The time, planning, and extensive oversight that went into the Marshall plan helped ensure its success. Given the miscalculations that have occurred during our time in Iraq, it behooves us to be cautious and put in place mechanisms to ensure the most vigorous oversight of the reconstruction of Iraq.
If we approve this supplementaland I believe we willevery provision that we have added to this measure to increase accountability and to hold the administration to benchmarks and timetables must be retained in conference. I voted to support Senator Byrd's amendment to add reporting requirements for the Coalition Provisional Authority and to mandate
GAO audits of Iraqi reconstruction activities and numerous other amendments were adopted by voice vote that strengthen our ability to oversee the disbursement of these funds. We could have done even more to guarantee the success of the ambitious nation building proposed by the administration if we had adopted the Leahy-Daschle amendment to transfer reconstruction authority from the Pentagon to the Department of State. It makes sense that those with the most expertise in this area be in charge of Iraq's reconstruction. The administration's indecision about how to manage the reconstruction suggests that we have not heard the last on this matter.
Americans' sense of unease about United States policy in Iraq is compounded by the sheer size of this supplemental. I have heard from countless constituents who are concerned that we are spending vast resources in Iraq when we have so many pressing needs here at home. I share their sense of irony that we are sending money to Iraq to build roads and schools, to construct housing and health facilities, and to spur economic development, when these same needs go unmet in our own States. That is why I would have voted to support the Stabenow amendment to spend $5 billion on veterans' health care, school construction, health care and transportation needs here in the United States. Addressing these vital needs would have helped create as many as 95,000 jobs at a time when the numbers of unemployed who have given up and stopped looking for work at all is climbing.
In this time of economic uncertainty, I have joined many of my colleagues in questioning why we have not been more responsible in paying for military operations and reconstruction costs in Iraq now, instead of burdening future generations with the staggering cost of this operation. That is why I voted for the Biden amendment that asked the wealthiest 1 percent of this Nation's taxpayers to give up a small portion of their future tax breaks to fully offset the $87 billion cost of the supplemental before us. And that is why I would have voted for the Dorgan amendment to require that Iraqi oil revenues be used as collateral to pay for the reconstruction in Iraq, an amendment I supported in the Appropriations Committee. Iraq is not a poor nation it has the second largest oil reserves in the worldand it is only a matter of time before the oil will begin flowing again. How can we worry about burdening the Iraqis with debt when our own debt looms so large? I hope that when Congress completes action on this bill, the Bayh amendment is a part of the final version and we will have found a way to have the Iraqis help pay for the cost of reconstruction.
We also need to do much more to gain the support of the international community in this endeavor. The U.N. Security
Council vote on Thursday was an important step in that direction but the resolution itself glossed over important differences with our allies. After the vote, representatives from Russia, France, and Germany made clear that they do not plan to lend further support issuing a joint statement saying, "The conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and no further financial contributions beyond our present engagement."
I have always believed that before we commit troops abroad, we must do so with international support and involvement.
As I said when I cast my vote to authorize the President to use force against Iraq, I did so with the belief that "moving to disarm Saddam Husseinin concert with the international communitywas the President's great goal." And last year, before we voted, the President vowed to seek the support of the international community on Iraq. Working with the support of the international community made sense when we waged war against Iraq in 1991, and it would have made sense last year.
I wish the President had taken the time to build a broader international consensus before we went into Iraq. The price of going it alone is being paid in many ways. We have damaged our relations with some of our oldest allies. Our attitude in Iraq, coupled with this administration's approach to other international efforts has done real damage to our image in the world. While reasonable people can disagree about whether the treaties, protocols, and conventions the United States has opted out of over the last few years were good or bad for our national security, the fact remains that our friends around the world were surprised, and in some cases snubbed by our actions. At the time we may have thought the cost of leaving them behind was small but the bill has now arrivedand the first installment is $87 billion.
Even the "coalition of the willing" has come with a price. While the United Kingdom has stuck by us admirably, many of the other countries that the administration points to as cooperating with us in Iraq are being compensated for their efforts.
A Washington Post article this summer pointed out that the international division headed by Poland will face roughly $240
million in expenses, $200 million of those will be paid by the United States. The supplemental before us contains some $900 million for Pakistanto pay them to police part of their own border.
Last year, the Congress and the Nation heard all about the advantages of unilateralism. We heard that only weak countries that could not control their own destinies had to wait for the approval of the United Nations or the international community. But now we are learning the limits of our own strength. We hear stories about how our military is stretched thin and we are asking more and more of our Reserve Forces. The United States military strategy was to be ready for two nearly simultaneous major military conflicts, but now it appears that our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are pushing the military to the limit. I believe our Armed Forces are up to the job that lies before them, but we did not have to ask this much of them. Better coordination with our allies earlier this year, or even now, could do a lot to ease the burden on our men and women in uniform.
While there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the reconstruction dollars included in this bill, no one has disputed that the military funding is crucial to the support of our troops in Iraq. Our men and women in uniform need the $67 billion included in this package to replace damaged equipment and stores of spare parts. They need it to buy necessities like body armor and improve security around facilities. They need it so they can move out of tents and into air conditioned barracks.
Some of my colleagues may have opposed the war from the beginning, and others may now be doubting the value of this military adventure, but we all agree that the troops who are over there now need the best that we can give them to accomplish their mission quickly and safely. In that spirit, I supported the Dodd amendment that would have taken $322 million from Iraqi prison building and witness protection funds on the reconstruction side of this bill and would have used those funds to pay for sorely needed personnel equipment for our troops.
I wish we could have considered the reconstruction funding separately. Much of that funding is far less urgent than the military spending in this bill. That is why I supported the Byrd amendment that would have separated the reconstruction funds from the $67 billion in defense funds. If we had approved that amendment, we surely would have approved the military and security funds expeditiously and then taken the necessary time for the administration to provide us with more specificity on the plan for the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq.
Mr. President, we are being asked to approve this $87 billion request for Operation Iraqi Freedom; yet, no one can say authoritatively how long this operation will last. We are being asked to approve $87 billion when we have no information on the extent to which the international community will shoulder some of the burden of stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq.
And we are being asked to approve $87 billion with no idea of how much more we will be asked to commit in taxpayer dollars and human lives.
I plan to support this supplemental. I do so after having supported amendments to try to improve the reconstruction package, and I do so because we cannot delay any further the military spending so crucial to making this mission a success.
We owe our fighting men and women in the field our full support and we owe the Iraqi people a fighting chance to rebuild their nation. And while it may be true that these debts were amassed through misguided policies of unilateralism, they are debts nonetheless, and they must be paid. So I will vote for this supplemental and urge my colleagues to do the same.
I yield the floor.