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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM

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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, I now would like to point out to the gentleman, as all of us know, that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have spent the last 29 days waiting for this Congress to authorize the funding that they need to execute their mission to maintain not only their own safety, but the safety of us here at home. We have heard reports since last night that the war funding bill and its provision and primary mission of funding the troops has now been somewhat eclipsed by provisions which have no relation to protecting and supporting our troops in the field. So I would ask the gentleman, could he confirm, number one, that $108 billion--scored at $5 billion by the Congressional Budget Office--whether that money for the IMF will be included in the troop funding bill? Number two, are the reports correct which have indicated that the provisions prohibiting the release of detainee photos has now been stripped from the measure that we will consider? And thirdly, could the gentleman confirm that the conference report coming to the House will now allow for the transfer of the Guantanamo detainees into the United States?

And I yield.

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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

And, Madam Speaker, I would respond by going back to the gentleman's
original statement concerning the principal purpose of the war funding bill, and that he said, if I could paraphrase, the intent of the bill is to fund our troops. So I am at somewhat of a loss to understand why we have taken 29 days. We've already had one strong bipartisan vote in this House with nearly unanimity on our side of the aisle to provide the necessary funding for our troops, so I'm at somewhat of a loss to understand why the delay.

The gentleman speaks of the urgent need for us, as U.S. taxpayers, to fund a global bailout, and the gentleman said that there is indication that somehow if we address the issue of poverty that we will then be lessening the number of terrorists. I don't know, Madam Speaker, if all of us would agree with that or not. No question, reducing poverty is a laudable goal, but we are also in the business here in Washington of setting priorities. Priority one should be the funding of our troops and to secure this country and its citizens. And thank God we have our men and women in uniform there. They should be our priority in executing in terms of advocating for the safety and fighting for the security of this country.

So I am still, to use the gentleman's word from last week, confounded as to why it is we cannot have the IMF funding go through regular order in this House. As you know, reports have indicated that actions have been taken by this administration, especially Secretary Geithner, to cast a vote in favor of increasing access to money and credit for the member nations of the IMF. That is done without congressional approval. And we're talking here specifically about the special drawing rights of nations at the IMF. We have also found out that the nation of Iran will have the ability to access funding of over a billion dollars through this process. To me, that calls for congressional oversight and action. It doesn't warrant delaying this bill. It doesn't warrant putting on the backs of our troops the funding of nations, frankly, that are providing support for the destruction of our efforts and endangering our troops on the ground in Iraq and in the region.

So I have a question to the gentleman of why it is so important that we go ahead and fund a global bailout when the primary mission is to fund our troops.

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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, I think, as the gentleman knows, we are probably going to have to leave this topic and agree to disagree. It is very concerning, given the new times we are in, and, frankly, the facts and information have come forward about the special drawing rights about the fact and knowledge that we have at this point knowing U.S. taxpayer dollars will help facilitate countries like Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and others to access more money to do what it is that they think is in their interest and certainly not in the interest of the U.S.

But I would like to turn the gentleman's attention back to his statement about the intention of this bill and the primary purpose of the war funding bill, which, again, to loosely paraphrase, was to provide for troop safety and security, and that's the underlying purpose. The gentleman indicated that the President has already taken the same position that most of us, I believe, in this House have taken so far as these photos are concerned and the release of the photos of the detainees. So I am again at somewhat of a loss to understand why it is that even if the White House and the President himself have sided with what I think the majority of the American people feel as well as the Members of this House, why it is that we are doing the opposite in the text of the report that we will be voting on.

And I would say to the gentleman, Commander Ray Odierno, General Odierno, Commander of the Multinational Forces in Iraq, someone that I'm sure the gentleman has had occasion to meet and I as well, who we know is a very respected and serious leader of our troops, he said just a few weeks ago, I strongly believe the release of these photos will endanger the lives of U.S. soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, and civilians, as well as the lives of our Iraqi partners. Certain operating units are at particular risk of harm from release of the photos. And he went on to describe those particular risks that are specific.

The gentleman, I think, can agree with me it is not in the interest of securing the safety of our troops for us to remain silent or for us not to take congressional action ensuring that nothing occurs for us to possibly harm our troops in this bill. That is why I ask the gentleman again, how have we sat here and delayed consideration of the bill because now we had to ensure inclusion in the bill the stripping of the provision which provides the safety of our troops?

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Mr. CANTOR. Reclaiming my time, I would just say to the gentleman, as he does know, there were applicable provisions at law which govern the treatment of soldiers at war and there is a much less definitive, more nebulous environment in which we are to look towards enemy combatants, which is my point. Because with the trial of enemy combatants on U.S. soil, we are confronting, as the gentleman knows, cases of first impression at every turn, and we are confronting uncertainty as to the disposition of these cases which brings up potential harm for U.S. citizens.

I would just go back to the gentleman's plea that he would like to see us support this bill. If the primary purpose is to maintain, promote the security and safety of our troops and provide them with funding, it is a reach for me to understand how allowing for a release of photos, how allowing for the transfer of enemy combatants--terrorists--to U.S. soil furthers that end.

So I would say in closing, Madam Speaker, if the gentleman is satisfied with deferring to the White House and deferring to this President on the very core purpose of securing this country at all levels and doesn't feel the Congress should take affirmative action, then I believe his support of this bill is well put. But it is certainly the opinion of many of us in this House as indicated by votes as late as yesterday that we can do better, that we can take action to secure our troops, get them the money they need and get rid of the unrelated items in this bill.

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