U. S. Troops Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: March 28, 2007
Location: Washington, DC


U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - March 28, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, this bill is moving along very fast, and I compliment the majority and minority leaders for allowing the process to move forward in a quick fashion, because we understand the outcome. The bill most likely will pass in its current form, maybe with some changes, but at the end of the day, it will be vetoed.

I was listening earlier in the day to Senators HAGEL and WEBB discuss an amendment they had proposed. I am not sure whether it is germane, but the two Senators, who do deserve the respect of everyone in this body because they have been in combat, they have been in harm's way, had an amendment talking about force structure, how you would change the rotations, and the concerns this war has placed on the military. Well, those concerns are real, and I understand what they are trying to achieve there.

The reason I wanted to speak before we went to final passage is I know why the veto is coming. There are two components to this bill that the President should veto the bill over: No. 1, the restrictions we are placing on our military, and the deadlines and the timelines and the benchmarks all add up to making it impossible for the new strategy of General Petraeus to be successful, if it became law. This is a constitutional encroachment upon the power of the Commander in Chief which I believe is unprecedented. There is an honorable path for Congress to take; that is, just stop funding a war that you think is lost. But the combination of deadlines, benchmarks, timelines, and micromanaging troop rotations all adds up to Congress really taking over wartime activity in a way that was never envisioned before. I don't think any other commander is going to have to go through what General Petraeus would have to go through if we did pass this bill and it were not vetoed.

I have been a military lawyer for 20-some years. The combat folks in here have been in harm's way. As a military lawyer, I have had some clients who wanted to kill me, but that is about it. So my hat is off to the warfighters. I have been in a support role, and there are thousands of doctors and nurses and lawyers and other support personnel serving in Iraq, and they are very much needed. There is no front line in Iraq or Afghanistan, so my hat is off to all of them. But the warfighter's point of view is what we need to be thinking about.

From the commander's point of view, General Petraeus has been assigned to a mission. He has come up with a new doctrine. Even the worst critic cannot say it is not something new. It is clearly something new. Whether it works I can't promise, but I think it has a good chance and there are early signs of success. It is making up for past mistakes.

The President is going to veto this bill because Congress has come up with a constitutional construct that, if allowed to exist, I believe would create dangers for future Commanders in Chief and future wars that are just unnecessary. I know the political moment for Iraq is not popular. I know people are frustrated and upset and we have made tons of mistakes, but the biggest mistake would be to throw the constitutional balance we have enjoyed for 200 years out of kilter and try to take over this war in a way we are not built to take over as a Congress.

There is a way to cut off this funding. We just haven't chosen to go down that road, and I don't know why. If you think it is lost, then that is the road to go down.

The second part of the bill that has met with objection is the number of projects unrelated to the war--for lack of a better word, porkbarrel spending. And it may not be porkbarrel spending. Some of these projects are probably very worthy. I just don't believe this is the way to fund them.

The emergency supplemental appropriations process for the war is needed, but we shouldn't have an emergency appropriation. This war has been going on for 4 years, so hopefully next year we will not find ourselves in this spot. If we do not get the funds over to our commanders and into the DOD pipeline, then readiness is hurt, the ability to prosecute the war is compromised beginning April 15, and every month thereafter, it gets more difficult.

So the President is going to veto the bill for two sound reasons. The construct Congress has created is taking the Congress in an area we have never gone before that I believe would be devastating to future wars. It would undermine General Petraeus' ability to be successful in his mission. The spending practices this bill embraces is what has put Congress in such low standing with the American public.

Republicans lost for a reason. We didn't treat the process in a respectful way. Our Democratic friends, with some Republican help, are making the problem worse when it comes to fiscal matters. So I do hope that once the veto is rendered we can find a way to get the money to the troops who are desperately in need of it over time, and we can find a way to come together and give General Petraeus a decent opportunity to turn Iraq around.

I end on this note. What drives my thinking and what makes me disagree with Senator Webb and Senator Hagel--people who have experienced combat--is that I believe the outcome in Iraq is part of the overall war on terror. If we lose in Iraq--and I think this bill would ensure a loss if it ever became law--the ripple effect is catastrophic; the war gets bigger, not smaller. A failed state in Iraq is a huge loss in the war on terror. It compromises our national security for decades.

That is the way I see it, and I will take every vote in this body viewing Iraq as a central battlefront in the war on terror, one we cannot afford to lose.

I yield the floor.