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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of HR 1591, US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 1591, U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007

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Mr. LaHOOD. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1591.

The bill is a bonanza for numerous factions of the majority party and many special interest groups. You want an increase in the minimum wage? If you pass this bill, it is done. You want agricultural disaster relief that occurred more than 2 years ago? You pass this bill, it gets done. You want billions of dollars for homeland security initiatives without going through the regular process? Pass this bill, and it is done.

Let me be clear, I supported an increase in the minimum wage, and I supported it in the appropriations committee last year. I have voted to support relief for our farmers, and I do believe we have to increase our ability to secure airports and our ports, but not through this bill.

I do want to say a word of support and thanks to Chairman Murtha and Chairman Obey for highlighting Walter Reed and sending a message that we are not going to close the hospital. We are going to keep it open. We are going to fix it up. We are going to provide the money. That was an important provision in this bill.

I have constituents who are leaving Illinois shortly and will soon be back in harm's way. I have never voted against legislation that provided funding for them to safely execute their missions. I trust they recognize what is happening here tonight. They know that we will always work to give them the resources they need, but we will not undercut their efforts by telling our enemies that the United States does not have the fortitude nor the political will to continue our support for the Iraqi people and their government.

What is the benefit to giving our enemies a troop withdrawal date that they can circle on their calendar? Why would we give them the aid and comfort of knowing that if they continue their attacks for just 11 more months, the U.S. military will leave Iraq, and it will be under their control?

We must pass a clean supplemental that is focused on meeting military needs. We must quit. We must quit being 435 Commanders in Chief and allowing our military leaders on the ground in Iraq to continue to use their skills and expertise to prosecute the war free of political interference. We must acknowledge that the needs of our men and women in uniform are more important than deals made here, campaign sound bites and political grandstanding. We must remember those who sacrificed so much for this war effort and allow their fellow soldiers to continue the mission.

We have a job to do here. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bloated, misguided bill and return our focus to where it should have been all along, the needs of our troops.

Even with $25 billion in extraneous, non-emergency spending added to sweeten the pot, a big problem remains. You can dress it up all you want, but Members, regardless of party affiliation, know a bad bill when they see it. Leadership may be able to lard up this bill to gain votes, but apparently it hasn't been enough because they still don't have the votes.

I am very disappointed, but not surprised, that really surprised, that we are operating here today under a closed rule. I know Members of both parties would like to be able to offer amendments to try to salvage this legislation, but too many arms have been twisted and too many promises have been made to allow any changes now. One amendment passes, and the whole bill unravels. Apparently, one vote, up or down, is all you get when you consider a $125 billion package.

Let me be clear. I support an increase in the minimum wage. I support providing relief to farmers when disaster strikes. I support increased funding to improve the airport security process. However, none of these things is worth my supporting a bill that I truly believe will put the lives of our troops in danger.

During the Appropriations Committee markup of this bill last week, Chairman Murtha included in his Manager's amendment the text of my amendment that prohibits the use of funds to close the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I am grateful for his assistance about this issue that I consider to be vital to the care of our returning wounded military personnel. But even the inclusion of my own amendment in this bill is not enough to make me hold our troops in combat hostage to political grandstanding.

It is unconscionable to me that this House assumes that we can manage the war better than our military leaders. We cannot stand here in the protected environment of the House Chamber and tie the hands of our President and our combatant commanders on the ground in Iraq. We cannot promise our troops the operational money they need to safely do their jobs while announcing their withdrawal date to our enemies. Congress cannot and must not micromanage the war effort.

I have constituents who are leaving Illinois shortly and will soon be back in harm's way. I have never voted against any legislation that provided funding for them to safely execute their missions. I trust that they recognize what is happening here today. They know that I will always work to give them the resources they need, but I will not undercut their efforts by telling our enemies that the United States does not have the fortitude or political will to continue our support for the Iraqi people and their new government.

What is the benefit to giving our enemies a troop withdrawal date that they can circle on a calendar? Why would we give them the aid and comfort of knowing that if they continue their attacks for just 11 more months, the U.S. military will leave and Iraq will be theirs to control?

If enough votes are gained and enough arms are twisted and this legislation reaches the President's desk, he will veto it, with my strong support. Our troops will suffer while the majority continues to try to unite their deeply divided caucus. Our troops will continue their missions as best they can, but how long do you plan on making them wait for the funding they need?

We must pass a clean supplemental that focuses on meeting military needs. We must quit trying to be 435 Commanders-in-Chief and allow our military leaders on the ground in Iraq to continue to use their skill and expertise to prosecute the war, free of political interference. We must acknowledge that the needs of our men and women in uniform are more important than backroom deals, campaign sound bites, and political grandstanding. We must remember those who sacrificed so much for this war effort and allow their fellow soldiers to continue their mission.

We have a job to do here. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bloated, misguided bill and return our focus to where it should have been all along: the needs of our troops.

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