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Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 1960, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, the rule for the defense authorization bill is a structured rule. Over 300 amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee, and 172 were made in order.

This was a very difficult task, made even more difficult because the majority scheduled only 2 days for debate on amendments to this 850-page bill. But I would like to add a special word of appreciation for the Rules Committee staff, both majority and minority, who worked tirelessly for long hours to prepare this bill and its amendments for debate. I think most of my colleagues do not have the appreciation for what the staff and even the members of the Rules Committee have to go through, but I think they should appreciate their work even more after this rule that is being brought before the floor today.

I am pleased that one of the amendments included in this rule is my amendment on the war in Afghanistan. This is a bipartisan amendment which will be debated and voted on later today. It is cosponsored by Walter Jones of North Carolina and Ranking Member Adam Smith of Washington, along with Representatives LEE and GARAMENDI of California.

A very similar amendment was not allowed debate last year; and I want to particularly thank Chairman Sessions, members of the Rules Committee, my good friend, Mr. Nugent, and the Republican leadership of the House for allowing a debate on the war to occur this year. It is the right thing to do; and I appreciate that they take seriously the responsibilities of the House to debate issues of war and peace and to sending and keeping our servicemen and -women in harm's way.

However, I'm a little disappointed that the debate will only last for 10 minutes. That's the amount of time designated for this amendment. Ten minutes is not really enough time for a genuine debate on the war in Afghanistan and what might next be required of our troops, and how much staying in Afghanistan will cost us.

Afghanistan has turned into the longest war in American history--over 12 years so far. And heaven only knows, Mr. Speaker, it has cost us dearly in both blood and treasure. Those costs will haunt us for decades to come, as so many of our veterans have returned wounded in body, mind, and soul: 2,235 American military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan, and even more will be sacrificed before our troops come home. Over 17,000 have been wounded. It's estimated that over 30,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001; 349 of our veterans committed suicide last year, more than the 310 servicemen and -women who were killed in theater in Afghanistan.

Since 2001, including the money in this bill, we have spent $778 billion for Operation Enduring Freedom, nearly all of that in Afghanistan. Right now, as we speak on the floor of this House, we're spending over $7 billion each month in Afghanistan. Every hour costs us nearly $10 million. And all this time we have helped support a corrupt Karzai government, a government that gets billions of dollars each year and billions more under the table.

Surely this war and the possible extended deployment of our brave troops for an indefinite period of time are worth a little bit more time than has been given for debate.

But, Mr. Speaker, Members will have the opportunity to debate and vote later today on ensuring the President completes his timeline to transfer all combat military and security operations to Afghan control by the end of 2014, at which time U.S. involvement in combat operations is to end; and to express that should the President determine to extend the deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, then the United States Congress should specifically vote to authorize that mission.

I would urge all of my colleagues--Democrats and Republicans--to join us in supporting this very, very important amendment.

Again, I do want to express my appreciation to my colleagues on the Rules Committee for making it in order. While I am pleased that my amendment was made in order under the rule, several other amendments on very serious military security issues were excluded from debate. I would just like to mention a couple of them.

In a bipartisan fashion, Members of Congress have expressed their shock and outrage over the epidemic of rape and sexual abuse and assault in all branches of our military and at all ranks and military institutions. It is unacceptable, and it is intolerable. While H.R. 1960 has many provisions that address aspects of this crisis, there were several amendments that were not allowed, in particular, amendments dealing with military sexual assault offered by Representatives Speier and Gabbard.

These amendments were serious efforts to advance this debate and to let Members of this House as a whole decide whether more needs to be done to prevent and reduce the level of military sexual assault, to prosecute and to bring to justice the perpetrators of sexual abuse, and to hold accountable the military chain of command and institutions that have allowed, facilitated, or tolerated this abuse. They should have not been excluded from this rule, and they deserve our most serious attention.

So because these and some other important issues fail to be included in the rule, I reluctantly urge my colleagues to oppose this rule.

Again, I thank my colleague, Mr. Nugent, for his courtesies and for his kind words about my amendment, and I will now reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Okay. Then I will yield myself the balance of the time.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to urge that we defeat the previous question. And if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to make this an open rule so that Members have the opportunity to offer any amendment allowed under the rules of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to include for the Record the text of the amendment in the Record along with extraneous materials immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, let me just say that I think the Rules Committee had a difficult task given the fact that the leadership of this House has kind of only allocated 2 days for debate on the defense authorization bill. They had to deal with 300 amendments. They made 172 in order. I know that everybody worked hard to try to be fair. I appreciate, again, the courtesy extended to me on my amendment with regard to Afghanistan, and I appreciate my colleagues on the Republican side for their support.

I think the controversy still is around the issue of sexual assault in the military. A number of amendments, particularly those offered by Ms. Speier and Ms. Gabbard, were not made in order. That, unfortunately, makes it very difficult for many on our side to support this rule.

But I want to thank, again, the staff of the Rules Committee and the Members for work on this. I urge a ``no'' vote on the previous question and a ``no'' vote on the rule. I yield back the balance of my time.

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