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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank Congresswoman Gabbard. She has a practical battle-tested basis of experience to propose this amendment. She served a tour in Iraq, and she served in Kuwait.

This is not a question about whether the proponents of this amendment reserve any desire to go after ISIS in any way that we can, nor does it mean that we want to restrict our help to responsible partners, like the Kurdish Peshmerga. What this is about is identifying a program that was designed for failure. It was predicted by Congresswoman Gabbard that this train and assist program for unidentified Syrian allies, so- called, would fail. It would fail because we didn't have a nation-state that we were dealing with. Train and equip is a good program when it is with a responsible government, or one trying to be a responsible government--maybe in Afghanistan, maybe in Iraq.

What we have here is a civil war. We have al Qaeda, we have al- Nusrah, we have people fighting Assad, we have people fighting each other. The CIA identified 1,500 different groups. And we are asking our military, our CIA, who don't really speak the language--some do--to identify who will be ``the good rebels'' in what is a caldron of conflict.

The problem here is that we spent $500 million and basically ended up training 100 people. They drifted off into the battlefield and were quickly killed or captured or defected. So what we have is not something where we are predicting failure, we are having something that did fail. And now we are doubling down on it, taking $250 million, and adding to a program that doesn't work.

Why don't we spend that money doing something that can work?


Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chair, as has been said by many of my colleagues, the constitutional responsibility to declare war is that of Congress.

So how is it that this Congress and the Congresses that have preceded us since the hostilities in the Middle East began have failed to even debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force.

That is our duty. We are divided by many things, and we see the world in different ways, but we all have a fundamental responsibility to abide by the Constitution, which governs our conduct, the House of Representatives--the Congress of the United States, the Representatives of the people. The people are the ones, ultimately, who bear the burden of any conflict, and they are entitled to our vote, yes or no, in engaging in war.

The second thing: a lot of concern--sometimes legitimate, sometimes debatable--as to overreach by an executive.

How is it that we can make that complaint if we cede our constitutional responsibility by irresponsibly failing to exercise it to an executive?

Congress must act.


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