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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Chairman, my amendment today is very straightforward. It would limit the Department of Defense funding to the amount authorized under the Budget Control Act of 2011. This would result in an $8 billion reduction in spending from the level authorized by the House Armed Services Committee.

The amendment is cosponsored by my colleagues, Representatives Paul, Woolsey, Stark, Blumenauer, Schrader and Frank, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee and a long-time advocate for reasonable defense-spending reform.

As you know, Mr. Chair, last year Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which put in place spending caps on discretionary spending. Despite these statutory limitations, the House Armed Services Committee set overall military spending billions of dollars above what the Pentagon requested, or what was agreed to under the Budget Control Act.

While many of us did not support the discretionary caps under the Budget Control Act, our amendment simply brings Pentagon spending in line with the law. It does this while protecting our active duty military personnel and retirees. Let me repeat: not a single penny would come from active duty and National Guard personnel accounts, or from the defense health program.

The Pentagon budget already consumes almost 50 cents out of every discretionary dollar that we spend. And adding billions of unrequested dollars, at the expense of struggling families during the ongoing economic downturn, is just downright wrong.

So I ask my colleagues, if we are really concerned with the deficit, then vote for this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. LEE of California. In reclaiming 30 seconds of my time, I just want to respond to the gentleman and say that that's further from the truth, what he just said.

First of all, our active duty troops in the field are covered by the Overseas Contingency Operations funds. Secondly, the Pentagon did not ask for this money.

I would like to yield 1 minute to the gentlelady from California (Ms. Woolsey).

Ms. WOOLSEY. I want to thank the gentlelady from California for bringing this amendment forward.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this amendment, and I am proud to be a cosponsor and to show the difference between both sides of the aisle, because with all of the fiscal challenges that we face, it's just common sense that the most generously funded government agency, the Department of Defense, would tighten its belt just like everyone else.

Sure, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are happy to cut and are big budget cutters when it comes to food stamps and Medicare and the safety net and anti-poverty programs. But when it comes to war and when it comes to weapons, they actually are the biggest spenders of all. I think the bare minimum we can ask is to keep the DOD budget at the level agreed to last year when we passed the Budget Control Act.

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Ms. LEE of California. First of all, sometimes we respectfully disagree with the President.

I think that this $8 billion in cuts to bring us back to the Budget Control Act of 2011 is reasonable given the very difficult times we are faced with now and the fact that, of all the government agencies, the Pentagon has benefited the most from generous funding. We've got plenty of outdated and unnecessary Cold War-era weapons systems that can and should be canceled. I think this is a reasonable amendment.

I would now like to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Schrader).

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Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is straightforward. It would appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. It is cosponsored by my colleagues, Congresswoman Woolsey and Congressman Conyers.

I must say that all of the cosponsors of this resolution agree that we must prevent an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, which would be totally unacceptable. As President Obama said, all options, including diplomatic options, need to be on the table with Iran.

We all recognize that the military option has been and will continue to be on the table, but we must not let the military option override any diplomatic initiative which would keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Let me just say and cite section 1221 of the bill in its Declaration of Policy on Iran. This is in the bill as it is currently written:

It is the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action, if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran's neighbors with a nuclear weapon.

The bill also sets forth what it takes to require the military to prepare for war. So we all recognize that the military option in this bill is on the table. It's stated very clearly.

My amendment would just take two simple steps to support the diplomatic option. First, it would require President Obama to appoint a high-level Special Envoy to Iran to engage in sustained bilateral--that's country to country--comprehensive negotiations with the aim of ensuring Iran gives up any efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

Secondly, my amendment would lift the ``no contact policy'' that prohibits high-level American diplomats from communicating directly with their Iranian counterparts.

In addition, it's just common sense that in order for the current multilateral negotiations to be effective, we need to get rid of this current policy that treats diplomatic talks as a prize rather than a tool for statecraft. My amendment in no way undermines current multilateral negotiations. In fact, we need both; we need bilateral and multilateral negotiations if in fact we're going to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

We can all agree that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons really is unacceptable. Experts agree that at best an armed strike against Iran would set its nuclear program back 3 years while locking in Iran's determination to obtain nuclear weapons. So we're trying to do everything we can do. As one who has always supported nonproliferation, I understand what is taking place as it relates to the multilateral negotiations, but I think it is very important that we strengthen those with bilateral negotiations.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. LEE of California. Let me just say I respectfully disagree that this would undermine the current Six Party Talks. I think it would strengthen the Six Party Talks. We need bilateral and multilateral negotiations if we're going to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

This bill is very clear in terms of the military option, in response to my colleague on the other side. The underlying bill says it shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action, if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran's neighbors with a nuclear weapon.

In no way does this amendment appease the Iranians. What it does is bring some semblance of balance and another strategy, another layer to strengthen the negotiations that are currently taking place so that we can keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and prevent an all-out war.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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