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Public Statements

Emergency Supplemntal Appopriations Act for Defense, The Global War Terror, and tsunami Relief, 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR DEFENSE, THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, AND TSUNAMI RELIEF, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 15, 2005)

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Markey:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following new title:

TITLE VII--ADDITIONAL GENERAL PROVISIONS

SEC. 701. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to implement any regulation reducing the total amount of monthly military pay for a member of the Armed Forces who is wounded or otherwise injured while assigned to duty in an area for which special pay is available under section 310 of title 37, United States Code, below the amount in effect for the member when the member was wounded or otherwise injured.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall cease to apply with respect to a member described in that subsection as of the end of the first month during which any of the following occurs:

The member is found to be physically able to perform the duties of the member's office, grade, rank, or rating.

(2) The member is discharged or separated from the Armed Forces.

(3) The member dies.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. As preposterous as it sounds, today members of the armed services who are wounded in battle have their pay cut the moment they are evacuated from a combat zone after they have been wounded and they are fighting for their lives in a hospital bed. A pay cut is not, in my opinion, my idea of support; and it most assuredly is not what the wounded soldier thinks of as support.

The amendment I am proposing is intended to remedy this situation. It places a restriction on the supplemental appropriations funds to end this unjust practice. Essentially, this amendment will no longer allow the special hazardous duty pay to be cut for our wounded troops when they are evacuated from a combat zone. Instead, the special pay rates that they were receiving prior to their injury will be continued while the member recovers in a hospital. These pay rates will continue until the soldier either is reassigned to duty, discharged from service, or succumbs to his or her wounds.

The cut in pay comes at the exact moment when severely wounded members are evacuated for medical treatment and leave the combat zone. I know this because my constituent, James Crosby, was wounded last year in Iraq.

On March 18, 2004, James was wounded by enemy fire while riding on the back of a U.S. military vehicle in Iraq. A rocket fired at the vehicle killed the driver and injured two Marines, including James. A piece of shrapnel pierced James's side and penetrated his intestines and spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. James's pay was immediately cut when he was transported out of the combat zone in Iraq. He was discharged from the hospital in August and from active duty in September.

Unfortunately, James's story is the story of many more soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, struck down by hostile fire or mortars or improvised explosive devices.

Soldiers who would never leave a wounded comrade unattended on the battlefield suddenly find themselves in a hospital bed fighting for their lives. They have been separated from their unit, they are distressed about their condition, about what it means for the future, about suddenly being ripped from their unit by a mortar shell, about being helicoptered away from a very special group that had promised to protect each other come hell or high water. Now they are in the hands of people who made no such pledge, and the first thing the soldier learns is that his pay is being cut. I cannot imagine a more unambiguous way of telling that soldier that he or she is not as valuable today as yesterday.

Some have said to me, these are special pays for special purposes. We cannot be extending them indefinitely. There are two answers to this: one, my amendment would not extend them indefinitely, only to the point where the soldier has recovered and been reassigned or discharged; and, two, the Congress has already recognized the principle that combat pay should be extended to the wounded soldier in the hospital. It did so in the case of the combat pay tax exclusion which exempts combat pay from taxation until the soldier is discharged from the hospital.

I would hope that this body would accept my ``do no harm'' amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I thank both gentlemen for their statements. It is my intention to try to work in a way in which we can find a way to guarantee that once someone has been shot and taken out of the combat zone that their benefits are not cut. The irony is of course if they are shot but not seriously wounded and they stay in Iraq, they do not lose any of these benefits. It is only the most serious who lose the benefits. I would like to be able to work with them.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Massachusetts?
.
There was no objection.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. It is now in order to consider the third amendment from the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey).

AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. MARKEY

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute.

The amendment I am offering today simply reaffirms the United States' commitment to the Convention against Torture. The United States signed this treaty under President Reagan, and the Senate ratified it in 1994. Despite our commitments under this treaty and the recent statements made by the administration emphasizing that the United States is emphatically and unambiguously against the use of torture, reports keep growing of the United States sending detainees to countries where they are likely to face torture, including countries notorious for human rights violations, including Syria, Uzbekistan, and Egypt and other countries. My amendment will just restate existing law so that this body is put on record taking the position which Ronald Reagan did in his negotiation of the Convention against Torture.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Throughout United States history, we have been the world's moral and political leader. One of the things that really strengthened our hand at Nuremberg was that in turn the Germans could not make a case that we had engaged in the kind of human rights violations that the Nazis had engaged in. It made the trials at Nuremberg a moral statement about the United States and our view of the way in which war should be conducted.

This debate that we are having is intended on ensuring that we restate that commitment. We cannot have Uzbekistan, we cannot have Syria dictating what the standards are for our country. We cannot take prisoners within our control, put them on planes, and have them flown to other countries where whatever standards exist in that country dictate whether or not and what kind of torture will be engaged in.

The statement which we are making today on the floor will be to once again reassert this Congress' complete commitment to the Convention against Torture. I think it is important at this time that we once again make this point because the rest of the world looks to us as the moral leader and it is important for us in act as well as in word to uphold that standard.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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