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Conference Report on H.R. 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, The Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 1268, EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR DEFENSE, THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, AND TSUNAMI RELIEF ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - May 05, 2005)

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey), our distinguished ranking member, the lead Democrat on the Committee on Appropriations for his leadership for his very important motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, before I get into talking about the bill, I want to commend both the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) and our distinguished ranking members on the Committee on Appropriations and Subcommittee on Defense. Over the years, they have worked very hard and provided great leadership for our men and women in uniform and for the security of our country.

There is much about this bill that I support. I have some concerns which I will express but none of that diminishes the regard and appreciation I have for the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) and the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey).

Mr. Speaker, for the fourth time since the President ordered the invasion of Iraq 2 years ago, Congress has been asked to provide funds for the war outside the regular budget. With nearly 140,000 troops in dire need of equipment and supplies, this legislation will be overwhelmingly approved and I will support it.

A willingness to provide our troops the support they need, however, should not be mistaken for support for the repeated failures in judgment that first put our troops in harm's way and that keeps them there today.

Two years ago this week on May 1, 2003, President Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under a banner that proclaimed ``Mission Accomplished.'' Considering the events that followed and what has been disclosed since then, if the President were to stand under a banner today it would have to read ``Credibility Demolished.''

We are in the war's third year. Daily headlines are grim reminders of how far we are from a stable and secure Iraq, and the President has yet to provide a plan to get us to that place. We are fast approaching sadly 1,600 U.S. military deaths and thousands of more have suffered grievous and lasting wounds.

I have had the privilege to pay my respects to troops in theater and in hospitals in Europe and in the United States. Whatever our disagreement about the policy which brought us into the war, whatever our disagreement on the lack of planning to end it, it never diminishes the regard that we have for our men and women in uniform. We respect them and we appreciate their courage, their patriotism and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country. And on any opportunity that many of us have, we express that to them personally.

The President's rationale for the invasion was discredited long ago. Iraq remains unsafe. I talked about credibility in terms of the lack of planning. There is also a lack of credibility in budgeting. Although appropriations for Iraq approaches $200 billion, the President's budget requests no money for the war on the grounds that the cost is unknowable. Instead, the President chooses to include a figure for the war's cost, zero, that everyone knows to be wrong.

Here we are today on Thursday talking about a supplemental with a set amount in it of emergency funding for our troops, and we passed the budget last Thursday. It was not one week ago we did not know what the cost would be and now we do this week.

This is simply not an honest way to do our budgeting.

Our troops need relief and their equipment needs repair and replacement. The risk assessment released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff this week shows the strain on our military is real and unsustainable. And it is clear that the figure in the supplemental is really not enough to meet to meet the measure that the chairman mentioned.

Providing money alone as this bill will do is not enough. A way out must be provided as well. We must focus on quality rather than quantity when training Iraqi security forces, accelerate Iraq's reconstruction in ways that give Iraqis a major stake in rebuilding their country, and step up regional diplomatic efforts to heal the strife on which the insurgency thrives.

I was pleased to be part of the bipartisan delegation that visited Iraq during Holy Week, and I can tell you that firsthand that we have a long way to go to reaching those goals.

Our experience in Iraq strongly suggest that if we do not take these steps and soon, about training the security forces, accelerating Iraq's reconstruction, and stepping up regional diplomacy or as the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) would say, Iraq-atize, internationalize and energize, if we do not do this and soon, Americans may wonder for years to come if the end will ever be in sight.

The funds provided for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the relief of those devastated by the tsunami, to aid those suffering in Darfur and elsewhere, and to promote Middle East peace are necessary and important.

Were conferees able to focus solely on these issues, their final product would have been much stronger. However, since this bill is must-pass legislation, House Republicans demanded the inclusion of controversial immigration provisions. These provisions would be much better considered as part of a comprehensive immigration reform effort. These provisions will make asylum harder to obtain for those seeking a haven from persecution and place a huge unfunded responsibility on the States to verify information used to support a driver's license application.

This is an unfunded mandate. This is an unfunded mandate and it is not part of the Contract With America, no unfunded mandates.

Since this is a conference report, we cannot have a ruling from the Chair that will allow us to discuss some specifics about the unfunded mandate, the driver's license application that is in the bill. It sounds like a good idea. But if you are at the desk at the Department of Motor Vehicles and you have now become an immigration officer because you have to prove the citizenship, or at least the legality of somebody being in the country, it is a big burden, it is costly, and it is unfunded.

We have given a mandate without the money and really without the consideration that this provision should have been given.

In addition, we unwisely vest in the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to weigh Federal and State environmental and labor laws. This in the name of securing our borders. Securing our borders should be a national priority, which makes it all the more inexplicable that the President did not request in his budget the extra border patrol agents and detention beds authorized by Congress last year in response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Bipartisan efforts in the Senate do more for border security in this bill and were rebuffed by House Republicans in favor of provisions that trample on the rights of individuals and States, and may result in the diminishment of the safety of the American people.

I commend the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) for offering his motion to recommit to fund border security at the Senate levels. He also had this as a motion to instruct when the conferees were named, to add $1 billion so that we could have the border security that was recommended by the 9/11 Commission. But that was rejected.

So we talk a great deal about securing the border, but we are not putting the resources there to do the job. Thank heavens Senator Byrd prevailed with part of the money in the Senate. We can do more. We should have done more. The gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) has been a champion on this issue year in and year out as far as this discussion has been going.

Again, border security, border security, border security, and then we can talk about a comprehensive immigration policy.

I hope that all of our colleagues will give an overwhelming support of this body to the Obey motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, for many reasons, this is not an easy bill to support. The legitimate emergency needs to which it responds, particularly the needs of our men and women in uniform overseas, are real and must be addressed. A much better job, though, must be done to create conditions to allow large numbers of them to come home and to come home soon.

Mr. Speaker, I urge our colleagues to support the gentleman from Wisconsin's motion to recommit.

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