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US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007

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Mr. DONNELLY. Mr. Speaker, I support our men and women serving in harm's way, I support America's veterans, and I support of establishing clear benchmarks for progress in Iraq.

Our men and women in Iraq are in the middle of what is becoming an increasingly dangerous civil war. Despite their best efforts to provide security, train Iraqi forces, and pursue terrorists, the violence in Iraq ultimately must be ended by the Iraqi people. The Iraqis must step up, once and for all, and take responsibility for their future.

The Iraq war funding bill is the only proposal on the table that sets enforceable benchmarks for the Iraqi government and makes clear to the Iraqi government that we will not have our soldiers in the middle of a religious civil war indefinitely. Distinguished Hoosier and co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, Lee Hamilton, has said that tying continued U.S. support, including the presence of our troops, to benchmarks is the strongest leverage we have to force the Iraqis to act. He, too, has said that this supplemental--despite its imperfections--should move forward.

In an ideal situation, the President, and not the Congress, would hold the Iraqi government accountable for improving the political and security conditions in its country. However, the Bush Administration has not held the Iraqi government accountable even while the security situation has steadily deteriorated to the point of open civil war between rival religious sects.

In early January, I wrote the President. I asked him what the consequences would be if the Iraqi government failed to meet the benchmarks the President articulated, benchmarks the Iraqi government has agreed to meet, in a nationally televised speech. To this day, I have received no response from the Bush Administration.

In addition to forcing Iraqi accountability, the Iraq war funding bill provides desperately needed funds to ensure that current and future veterans and wounded military personnel receive the care and attention their service and sacrifice deserve. H.R. 1591 includes $1.3 billion in new funding for veterans' health care. This bill also improves our ability to care for our wounded warriors, with an additional $2.8 billion for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic-brain injuries, and burns and amputee rehabilitation. Finally, the Iraq war funding bill provides $20 million to fix Walter Reed Army Medical Center so that the embarrassingly substandard living conditions can be quickly remedied.

This legislation also reaffirms our commitment to fighting terrorism in Iraq and around the globe. Even if the Iraqis fail to meet our benchmarks for progress in Iraq, American forces can still fight and pursue terror groups operating in Iraq while continuing to help train Iraqi security and counter-terrorism forces. The Iraq war funding bill also provides

crucial funds to fight a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and it provides much-needed money for FBI counter-terrorism initiatives, secures at-risk nuclear materials in other countries and provides money to install radiation detection equipment at overseas ports that are shipping to the United States.

Mr. Speaker, I said numerous times during the campaign that Congress must continue providing full funding for our troops in the field--this bill does that by investing $95.5 billion in our military, including almost $900 million for new Humvees and $2.4 billion to improve protections against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Though I do not like the idea of setting a timeline for the redeployment of our troops, I will not vote against our troops on the field, period. This bill moves us in the right direction by sending a message to the President--and to the Iraqi government--that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable and must change.

The President has previously stated that he hoped Iraqi troops would be serving on the front line and that U.S. troops would primarily be in a training role before the end of this year. This funding bill extends our offensive mission almost one year past the President's own date. We are essentially asking the Iraqis to take ownership of their own country again. That is critical for both Iraq and the United States.

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