DEFENSE SUPPLEMENTAL SPENDING -- (Senate - May 20, 2008)
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the supplemental spending request that was sent to Congress last year by the President was unambiguous: the funds were to be spent on forces in the field, on the men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on their families here at home.
Last week, the Democratic leadership of the House showed us what they thought of that request. They took it up, hollowed it out, and filled the shell with a raft of unrelated domestic spending projects and policy proposals that did not include a dime for the troops in the field. House Democrats took a request meant for the troops and used it to fuel their own domestic spending habits. Then they sent this piece of legislation over to the Senate on the eve of Memorial Day and told us to vote for it. The Senate was being asked to vote not on troop funding but on two other amendments. One included unemployment benefits and a Medicaid proposal. The other sought to undermine the constitutional powers of the Commander in Chief by proposing a withdrawal date from Iraq.
Unfortunately, our Democratic friends in the Senate made it even worse. Taking up what they got from the House, they added even more unrelated policy proposals. In the name of combat readiness, Senate Democrats also sought to restrict the ability of our military commanders to deploy forces, ignoring the fact that the surest way to degrade troop readiness is to delay the delivery of funds that are used to prepare and train our forces in the first place.
Taken together, it seems the only issue unaddressed by the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate is the only one that matters: how and when we will fund our forces in the field.
The bottom line is this: Tasked with the responsibility of funding our forces in the field, Democrats in the House and Senate neglected that task in favor of domestic spending and freelance policy proposals that we know in the end will not be signed into law--this despite the fact that the House will soon take up the Defense authorization bill, which is ordinarily the vehicle for the kind of policy proposals our friends on the other side have included in the supplemental spending request. The House has failed in its basic responsibility. It is my hope the Senate will do better.
While some of our friends on the other side seem to be counting on the fact that most Americans are distracted by the ongoing Presidential contest, the families and friends of U.S. soldiers and marines who are fighting overseas are, indeed, paying attention.
The President sent a request to fund these men and women. As long as they remain in harm's way, we have a strict obligation to give them what they need. On this point, there really should not even be a debate. The Senate must pass a bill funding our troops free of restrictions on their ability to win and free of spending unrelated to their mission. And we must try to do it by Memorial Day. In less than a month, the Defense Department will be unable to make payroll for our uniformed Army unless Congress approves the President's supplemental spending request. Less than a month after that, funds for operations and maintenance will also run dry. It may be convenient for those focused on the political calendar to ignore these pressing needs, but ignoring them really does not make them go away.
I hope the Senate will do its duty this week. The majority leader just indicated it is challenging. Of course, it is always challenging to do that. But we need to do our duty this week. Our forces in Baghdad and Ramadi will not be taking a week off for a recess.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, one additional word. The process for doing this has been offensive, I know, both in the House and in the Senate. It is my understanding that what will happen later this week is the tree will be filled and cloture will be filed. If any amendments are allowed on the floor of the Senate, it will be because my good friend, the majority leader, decided to let us have a vote. The whole process is one that doesn't immediately engender a great level of cooperation.
Having said that, the underlying legislation is important, and hopefully somehow we will find our way through this process this week, but I think it is pretty safe to say that 49 Republicans of the U.S. Senate are going to insist on being an important part of the process. Hopefully, we will be able to sort all that out and work our way through it and get this important piece of legislation out of the Senate and on the way, at least, back to the House or, hopefully, if we are lucky, back to the President for signature.
I yield the floor.