War Supplemental is Bad Politics, Bad Policy

Floor Speech

By:  Jack Kingston
Date: March 21, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

WAR SUPPLEMENTAL IS BAD POLITICS, BAD POLICY

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be here tonight.

I wanted to talk on the eve of what may be the most controversial bill that we have voted on since I have been a Member of Congress, and I have been a Member of Congress now for 16 years. In fact, sometimes I don't like to admit that in public because everybody gets so concerned about term limits, I don't want to be the poster child for my enemies on that subject. But I have been in Congress for the NAFTA vote, for the renewal of GATT, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. I have been here for the impeachment vote. I was here for welfare reform, some very significant pieces of legislation, the Contract With America, and recently with the Democrats' 6 for 06 plan. Yet in all my years of Congress, I can say that this week, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps Friday, we will have what is the most controversial bill that I ever voted on and the largest supplemental appropriation bill in the history of the United States Congress, a bill which the President requested for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terrorism in general. His request level was $101 billion, but it is actually going to be about a $124 billion bill, because there are many things that aren't even related to the war that have now got stuck in the bill.

There are a lot of different views on this that I wanted to talk about. I have my friend, Mr. Carter from Texas, who is a fellow appropriator on this Special Order. The thing that is interesting, though, is that a lot of the traditional allies of the Democrat Party, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and sometimes in fact those two newspapers are inseparable from the Democrat talking points, but they are squarely against this bill. The editorial pages have gone out of their way to say what a bad bill this is, to say do we really need a General Pelosi, which is what the Los Angeles Times said. And to quote the Los Angeles Times, ``After weeks of internal strife, House Democrats have brought forth their proposal forcing President Bush to withdraw the troops from Iraq, 2008. This plan is unruly, bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics. If the legislation passes, Bush says he will veto it, as well he should.'' That is the Los Angeles Times.

Here is the Washington Post. The Pelosi plan for Iraq. ``The only constituency House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored in her plan for amending Bush's supplemental war funding bill are the people of the country that the U.S. troops are fighting to stabilize.'' That is real important.

``The Democratic proposal doesn't attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi Government to lose all support from U.S. combat units. It doesn't hint as to what might happen if American forces were to leave at the end of this year, a development that would be triggered by the Iraqi Government's weakness. It doesn't explain how continued U.S. interest in Iraq, which holds the world's second largest oil reserve and a substantial cadre of al Qaeda militants, would be protected after 2008. In fact, it may prohibit U.S. forces from returning once they leave.'' That is the Washington Post.

These are not what I would call mainstream moderate newspapers. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post are out there drumming the drums for the liberal causes, time and time again, and they are both squarely against this plan.

You know, I think one thing Americans have to ask themselves is, is there U.S. interest in Iraq? Rhetorical question. Is there U.S. interest in Iraq? Now, if there isn't, and the war is in fact in the tank as Speaker Pelosi and many of her followers believe, get out tomorrow. Get out. Get out yesterday. Now, this bill doesn't say that. It is more of a slow-bleed, sure-formula-for-defeat plan. But if you really think the war is in the tank, why spend another nickel there?

Now I understand, I haven't spoken to him, that my colleague from Georgia, John Lewis, has made that philosophical and principled position. JOHN is a liberal senior Member from Atlanta. And he says, I am against the war. Why should I vote to spend $100 billion more there? I respect that position. But if you are going to spend the money and give the troops some assistance, why are you tying their hands at the same time? Again, if there is a U.S. interest, then is there not a U.S. interest in victory? Is there a U.S. interest in defeat? And so often the critics of the war always dodge those important questions.

And you can go back to 2003 and cite many things that have gone wrong. I am a Republican and I will tell you what, there have been many things that we have misjudged and done wrong, and it is regrettable. And I would also say that even prior to 2003, maybe some things should have gone in a different direction. I will say, as a Member of the House at the time, we were driven by the 17 United Nations resolutions, which the Iraqi Government ignored. We were driven by the best intelligence estimates at the time, which said that there were weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein would use them. That was a view that was shared by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and all the other leading Democratic critics of this war. But they all had the same conclusion in 2001, 2002 and 2003, leading to our resolution to give the President the use of force to go into Iraq. But I understand politics. Backseat driving and revisionist history just comes with the turf.

So we can politically revise history. I understand there is a short-term memory and a convenience factor, and if you are running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, you have got to be dodging and weaving, as JOHN KERRY did last time, voting for it and then against it and having positions all over the court.

But we are here now. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, the last election, November 2006, put the Democrats in charge. They are no longer in the back seat of the car. The President may have driven the car to where it is, but the Democrat Party now has its hand on the steering wheel. And you can steer good policy. And this, as the Los Angeles Times says, is bad policy, very bad policy.

If you believe there is a U.S. interest and you think, what would happen with the U.S. out of Iraq suddenly? There would be chaos, there would be civil war, and it is quite likely that the second largest oil-producing nation in the world would fall into the hands of anti-American, anti-Western terrorists and become a nation state of terrorists, a haven for more terrorists.

I don't know of anybody in the Congress that thinks it is a good idea to ignore terrorism the way we did prior to 9/11, when the two embassies were attacked in Africa, when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen, and when the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center happened. We are not going to let that happen again. We understand that you just can't ignore terrorism, that you have to be engaged with it.

So if you believe there is an interest and there is a huge downside in sudden withdrawal, why would you vote for a bill that says we are going to withdraw but we are going to withdraw slowly? We are going to let our troops stay over there, but we are not going to give them the backup that they need.

Now, I have the honor of representing the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Fort Hunter, Georgia. I also have a couple other military bases. But Fort Stewart leaves this week on its third deployment there. And I don't see how I could be expected to represent those soldiers and tell them, you know, ma'am, your son is patroling the streets of Baghdad and I had the opportunity to send him 20,000 troops to cover his back and I voted no. Because it is a fundamental question. If you are in Iraq, do you want 20,000 more troops helping you or not? How can you say you support somebody if you are not going to give them additional troops to back them up?

Now, I don't believe this is a status quo vote at all, because General Petraeus, who is now our commander over there, has designed this plan as a way to ramp up our forces and clamp down on the violence and the attacks, train the Iraqi troops, and then stabilize the country and come home. I believe that that is an exit and a victory plan, and it is changing the status quo.

So why would you put the general in charge, who I think was approved by the Senate by a vote of 80 or 90 to zero, I don't think there was a dissenting vote, and then say to him, good luck, but we are going to micromanage the war because we have 435 Members of Congress who, General Petraeus, are mighty good military folks in own right. Maybe we should in fact move Congress to Baghdad, since all the generals seem to be in this room who have all the answers.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I think the genius of the U.S. Congress is not only can we solve health care and education and agriculture and transportation, but on the side, we can run a war. I am just saying, hey, with this kind of brain power, we all ought to go to Baghdad and put on a uniform.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Something curious is that the Speaker of the House said we need to get out of Iraq and go to Afghanistan where the real war on terrorism is.

It is kind of scary to think that someone who is third in line to the President would have that kind of a naive misunderstanding of the world we live in.

We have been joined by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer), and I want to hear what he has to say.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I do not think you will find Hollywood or the media clamoring around Roy Vallez the way they have Cindy Sheehan. I wonder what the difference is.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I have found the same way. I have been to Iraq twice, and when I go there to talk to the troops, their biggest enemy is the American media. They will tell you it is so frustrating, and they never would have believed the media was so bad.

I want to show you some statistics that I think are important because you have just been there, but this was a poll that, again, good old American media covered up that was actually in Sunday's London Times, a British company, the largest poll in the history of Iraq, over 5,000 people were surveyed.

Now, I think so often when we hear polls that CNN reports, they poll their newsroom, 25 people, all whose minds have made up against the war and against George Bush. But this was the largest poll in the history of the country, largest poll during the war, of over 5,000 people.

They found this: That al-Maliki's, as a Prime Minister, approval rating is 49 percent. In September, it was 29 percent. That is a significant statistic.

The other thing is we keep hearing that we are caught up in a civil war. Well, the flip side is this: It is 70 percent of the people do not believe that they are in a civil war.

Now, is it not strange that the Iraqis do not believe they are in a civil war, but if you poll the Democrat Members of Congress, I bet you 90 percent would say they are in a civil war, and yet somehow the folks who live there do not believe they are in it. I find that a strange, just a very big difference, but, you know, who knows? I mean, we are politicians. We know everything. So certainly we know what the Iraqis are up to, and maybe they do not.

The other thing that that poll, and it is not on my chart, but the other thing that the poll showed is that 66 percent of the people say they are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein, conveniently unreported in American news, but I would recommend to you all to check out Sunday's London Times.

One other statistic that was not in the poll, but this is just a fact. But the month before we started the surge, and the surge officially started the 14th of February, the month before, there were 1,440 civilian casualties. Since that time there have been 265. You cannot ignore that statistic.

Now, I also want to give everybody a homework assignment. This is just for the folks back home. I would love you guys to see what the Democrat leadership says about the bill they are introducing tomorrow. Remember, this is a bill that is their official war plan.

Go to www.gop.gov/news/documentsingle, and what do we have? Aspx? This, if we can get this on camera, if anybody would come call me, I would love you to see the Democrat leadership explaining their plan. I am telling you, it is absolutely, it is almost right out of Comedy Central. Are they really saying this? Because everything is, well, what date y'all call getting out? Well, I do not know, let me ask my colleague here. Well, I do not know, let me ask my colleagues. It was kind of like, okay, can anybody tell us the capital of Iraq? This is, yes, it is on a GOP Web site. That is the only thing partisan about it. It is absolutely not touched up one bit.

I want to be sure everybody has an opportunity to look this up, but go to www.gop.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx? And ask for the document ID is 60396, and if you cannot find it, just call my office and we will give it to you, but it is scary. It is on one hand hilarious. On the other hand, it is scary that here is a leadership of a party saying here is our plan, and they cannot even explain it on prime-time television.

I wanted to say the scary part is these are high-stakes stuff, but please, look this up and watch this news conference. If you still think that this is the right thing to do, well, you are seeing something I am not seeing.

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Mr. KINGSTON. The gentleman also knows, both you guys being from Texas, that last year the Border Patrol, I believe, caught 115,000 people coming through the Mexican borders who were OTM, other than Mexican, and the concern of terrorists coming over here is real because we do have terrorists right now inside the United States border. We do not know how many cells or what they meet or what their intentions are, but we do know that they are here.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Let me talk to you, for the $23 billion extra that are not related to the war but are on this bill, designed to bring in more people to support it, this is what it includes: avian flu, $969 million. We have already spent, I believe, $5.6 billion on avian flu. We have already spent $5.6 billion, but it is an emergency, we have got to spend nearly another billion.

Spinach, spinach recall, not spinach disaster, but recalling to the private sector, $25 million.

Minimum wage, well, we know that is an emergency. Hurricane citrus program because of Katrina and Rita, I guess like avian flu, Katrina's the gift that keeps on giving in terms of any time you need to pass something.

NASA, $35 million for exploration capabilities. Well, that is certainly emergency. We better deal with that on the backs of the soldiers.

Corps of Engineers, more repair to the levee system in New Orleans. I do not know how many times we are going to repair that levee system, but maybe the Corps of Engineers cannot get it right, and who knows, maybe we need to bring in the private sector.

And, of course, FEMA is going to get more money. I mean, what would an emergency bill be without the FEMA bureaucrats getting more money?

And then there is rental assistance for Indian housing, another emergency; crop disaster assistance, shrimp, $120 million; frozen farm land, $20 million; aquaculture operations, $5 million for aquaculture for shellfish, oysters and clams. It does not have to do with Katrina, to my knowledge.

Of course, the emergency at the FDA, $4 million for the Office of Women's Health. Big emergency. I guess you guys have been getting a lot of letters about that one.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $60 million for fishing communities, Indian tribes, individual, small businesses, fishermen and fish processors, $60.4 million.

And then there is the emergency of Secure Rural Schools Act, $400 million for rural schools to offset revenues lost by the Bureau of Land Management owning timber.

And then low-income energy assistance program, a little confused about this one because, you know, with global warming, and it already being March, well, who knows? I digress.

Vaccine compensation, $50 million to compensate individuals for injuries caused by the H5N1 vaccine. Now, as you know, that is avian flu. And so of the $5.6 billion we have already spent, and of the $900 million we are about to spend, we still have to give $50 million extra on that.

Then, $50 million for the Capitol Power Plant. I mean, we have got to get that building renovated.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Yes, I think so. Then the children's health care program, the SCHIP program, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, there is a shortfall. But we have to ask ourselves, what is the shortfall? The gentleman Mr. Carter knows, one of the big reasons is because the children's health system has been abused in many States because they have insured adults.

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Mr. KINGSTON. And the grandparents.

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Mr. KINGSTON. The gentleman will remember in committee last week, when we debated this funding, Dr. Weldon and I had an amendment. I pulled out a chart that showed the number of States that had put the majority of their money into adult health care rather than children's health care.

You know, if there is a problem out there, that should be addressed. I want to say for the record, these things aren't programs that don't have merit. All of these things that I have listed are, I think there are some valid arguments for them. Some reforms are certainly needed in many of them, but they don't belong in a war bill, a funding war bill.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I want to read you this statement by the Speaker of the House, third in line for the President, March 19. This is Nancy Pelosi talking, ``When we do this, when we transition, when we change the mission, when we redeploy the troops, build political consensus, engage in diplomatic efforts and reform and reinvigorate the reconstruction effort, then we can turn our attention to the real war on terror in Afghanistan. I hear the voice of the future in the Chamber. What a beautiful sound. What a beautiful sound.''

Now, I guess that qualifies you to micromanage the war in Iraq because you have acknowledged there is no terrorism in Iraq, that it's all in Afghanistan. I guess if the real war is in Afghanistan, then the fake war is in Iraq. Therefore, it's okay, at the hands of the troop.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Let's also say that the supplemental is needed for a lot of needed equipment for these troops, and there is a lot of good in this supplemental.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I want to say also on a bipartisan basis, you have a lot of support for the good that is in the supplemental. I will hand it to the Democrat leadership, the Democrats on the Appropriations, for putting in things that we know the troops need such as the MRAPs, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Humvees the troops want; more money for the joint IED defeat fund. We had some really good testimony on that. Increases for the defense health care program, that is important; more money for equipment and training, more money for Afghanistan to counterterrorist-laden regions, money for a shortfall in the theater. There is some very good things in this bill that we believe, on a bipartisan basis, that the troops need.

But the part which requires the Iraqi Government to do certain things, which they may or may not be able to do by a deadline of July 1, really does tie up the Commander in Chief. I will say we are an equal branch of government, but the Commander in Chief is in charge of wars, not Members of Congress.

Just to give you an example, to rewrite the Iraqi hydrocarbon law, which has to do with revenue sharing of the oil, I think it's a good thing to do. But I think if you say it has to be done a date certain, July 1, they might not be able to do that.

Here we are in the United States Government, last year we could not pass a budget. Right now, we are having trouble passing a budget. Sometimes these things take longer than they do shorter.

We got to give a new government the opportunity to get things done and not micromanage their government. But I think the biggest concern is, among other things, that there is still a pullout. There is still a date certain for a pullout, August 2008, and it's possible Iraqis won't be ready. It's possible we could do it before then.

What General Petraeus has outlined for us is to go full-fledged with this troop surge, bring stabilization while ramping up the training of our Iraqis, so that we can hand them the baton in a way that we have continued stabilization, and then we can go home. I think letting General Petraeus call that shot in Baghdad is far more important than 435 wannabe generals here in the United States Congress and in Washington.

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Mr. KINGSTON. I wanted to point out one more time: Civilian casualties a month before the surge, 1,440; casualties after the surge beginning February 15, 265. Bombings have dropped 40 percent, from 163 to 102. And that would just be general bombings, IEDs. And then car bombings are down 35 percent, from 56 to 36. That is progress we are already seeing because of the surge.

And I want to get the guys home, but you need to complete the job, you need to have victory and make sure that we do not have to go back, and an arbitrary pullout date would cause that.

I also want to say this: I really do believe the Democrats are right in having more oversight. Frankly, I think that, as Republicans, we did not get the oversight that we should have. We should have been tougher on some of the testimonies that we received. And I think that their suggestions of what the Iraqi Government should do aren't far off. But I think giving them deadlines when we have trouble passing legislation ourselves, I think that is a little unreasonable.

But then the biggest part is the arbitrary pullout date of March 2008. And I think you are setting up failure when you are doing that. That decision has got to be made by our generals in Baghdad.

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Mr. KINGSTON. And, finally, let me say this: Let's defeat this bill. Let's come back on a bipartisan basis and come up with something better, something that gets Democrats and Republicans together in the name of the troops, America, and international security.

It is in our interests to get the politics out of legislation like this and come back with something better, something more noble. And I believe we can do it, because we are Americans. Thank you.