NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 648 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4200.
IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill (H.R. 4200) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2005 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2005, and for other purposes, with Mr. Hastings of Washington in the chair.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
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Once again, our Nation is calling upon the members of the U.S. Armed Forces to defend democracy and freedom. We have no doubt that these brave men and women will rise to the challenge. However, for those who have selected to make their career the U.S. military, they face an unknown risk.
This giant leap forward sends a clear message to the men and women who have provided our national defense. Today, we are a grateful Nation, and this Congress is making good on our promises to our Armed Forces. This battle has been hard fought, and its victory is shared by so many whose efforts have been tireless and unrelenting.
I thank my colleagues who have stood by me to realize this victory.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cooper), a member of our Committee on Armed Services.
Mr. COOPER. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Missouri, for yielding me the time.
Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, we will not be allowed to debate the true cost of this war. That is ironic because I think most Americans, whether they are for or against the conflict, at least want honest answers from this body. They want to know what the real casualty rate is, something that, unfortunately, Secretary Wolfowitz could not recall in a hearing the other day. They also want to know about the dollars and cents.
In the first Iraq war, which I proudly supported, the American taxpayer really did not have to pay even $10 billion for that war. This cost is already approaching $200 billion. That is not necessarily a bad thing because I think most Americans not only support the war; they want us to win and bring our troops home safely.
Here with this bill, despite the many fine things that are in the legislation, most every Member of this House, Republican or Democrat, has already voted for a budget which contained $50 billion for our troops, $50 billion, five zero billion dollars. But what is in this bill? $25 billion dollars for the troops. Why the difference? Why the difference?
Actually, the $25 billion is a partial victory, and I congratulate the chairman because, before, the White House did not want any money in the bill for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. They wanted that to be handled entirely separately. So, finally, we have an acknowledgment of $25 billion.
But is Iraq safer than it was a few months ago? Is that why the number is less than the $50 billion that we have all already supported? No. Iraq is more dangerous than it was before.
I am worried a false impression is being created here. There are many good things in this legislation, but when it comes to funding Iraq and Afghanistan, we are pretending with this bill, and we are allowing no amendments to this section, we are pretending that the cost is $25 billion.
This $25 billion is pretty curious because it really does not kick in until October 1 of this fall, the new fiscal year; and then it will last us a whopping 3 or 4 months, so that our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to have to start worrying about Christmastime whether the new Congress and a possible new White House is going to be as supportive of their efforts. We know our troops are going to be there. We know our troops are going to be there in large numbers. Why do we not go ahead and properly fund them?
The current policy in this bill is as silly as knowing you are running out of gas when you are on a long car trip, refusing to buy any new gas until way down the road somewhere, about October, and then when you finally get to the pump, you are buying $25 worth of gas when you should be filling up the tank.
Mr. Chairman, this bill refuses to fill up the tank. It refuses to fully fund our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does fund them for 3 or 4 months; but that is a piecemeal, shortsighted funding scheme that does a disservice to our men and women in uniform.