IRAQ -- (Senate - February 15, 2007)
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the continued obstructionism in the Senate, led by our Republican colleagues, concerning the vote on supporting or opposing the President's escalation of the war in Iraq.
For 2 weeks our distinguished majority leader has been trying to get an agreement to just proceed to a fair debate, to just have the opportunity on the floor of the Senate to have a debate on whether we support the President's escalation of the war in Iraq. He has offered an up-or-down vote on two different proposals--one opposing the escalation, the second supporting it. At every turn he has been stymied.
Our Republican minority claims they want to debate the war in Iraq, but they have done everything they can to obstruct the debate. I would like to go through some of the history of this obstructionism. Since the first of the year, Republicans have rejected at least three different compromises that would have allowed the Senate to move forward with a vote on the escalation of the war in Iraq. In an effort to obtain an up-or-down vote on the bipartisan resolution disapproving the President's plan, Senate Democrats offered to schedule an up-or-down vote on the McCain-Graham resolution supporting the President's plan. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership rejected this offer on what they claimed to support.
Then we, as Senate Democrats, offered the Republican leadership up-or-down votes on two other resolutions--the Gregg resolution and a resolution stating simply that the Senate does not support the surge and demands that the troops deploying to Iraq receive the body armor and other equipment they need. The Republican leadership again rejected the offer.
Finally, Senate Democrats offered to allow votes on the bipartisan resolution and the McCain-Gramm resolution that would each have required a supermajority of 60 votes. The Republican leadership again said no.
The pattern of obstruction has, unfortunately, continued. On February 5, all but two Republican Senators opted to block a debate, including the distinguished author of the resolution--chose to block debate on whether we support the President's escalation plan. The reaction across the country was echoed in numerous newspaper headlines.
The Washington Post:
GOP Stalls Debate On Troops Increase.
The Washington Times:
Senate GOP Blocked Iraq Resolution.
The New York Times:
GOP Senators Block Debate On Iraq Policy.
Vote On Iraq Is Blocked By The GOP.
GOP Blocks Iraq Debate.
Republicans Block Senate Debate On Iraq.
Republicans Block Senate Debate On Iraq.
GOP Blocks Senate Debate On Iraq Resolution.
Los Angeles Times:
GOP Bats Down Resolution Debate.
After almost 2 weeks of more stalling by the Republican leadership, Senate majority leader HARRY REID today, again, offered a compromise that would have allowed all of us the opportunity to stand up and take a position and vote our conscience. Simply put, every Member of the Senate would be given the opportunity to vote on a bill equal to the House resolution opposing the President's escalation of the war in Iraq and also a resolution supporting the President's plan to send even more troops into combat operations in Iraq.
What could be simpler? What could be more fair? The reaction by the Republican leadership, sadly, was not surprising. They again said no. They don't want to vote. I find it interesting that earlier today colleagues on the other side of the aisle who voted to stop us from going ahead to a vote are now saying we should not adjourn until we vote. Well, in fact, our distinguished majority leader and the majority agree. Therefore, we will have that vote after the House votes tomorrow. We will have that vote on Saturday.
Supporters of the war in Iraq have claimed that one of their goals is to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, throughout the region. That is an ironic statement, considering that they are stifling the democratic process on the floor of the Senate. Recent public opinion surveys have shown that a clear majority of Americans--in some cases as many as 70 percent of American citizens--when asked, say they oppose the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. From our biggest cities to our smallest towns, the American people are demanding accountability on the war in Iraq. They have questions and they are looking to their leaders for answers. They are looking to their leaders--to us--for focus and debate and a willingness to take a position and speak out and make change happen.
The Traverse City Record Eagle, in Michigan, in their editorial page, summed it up, I believe, on January 25. They said:
Someone frozen in time for the past 2 years could have listened to President Bush outline his new Iraq policy in his State of the Union Address Tuesday and wondered what the fuss was about. That is because there is no ``new' policy.
Today, the road ahead looks just like the road behind--stay the course. Only this time there will be about 20,000 more American troops in harm's way [not counting support troops]. Before we know it, we'll be at 4,000 Americans dead and 30,000 wounded and nothing will have changed.
They went on to say:
The awful reality, as many who watched Tuesday surely realized, is that the President has no exit strategy. He has no clue how to get Sunnis and Shiites to stop killing each other, let alone form a stable government. He has no evidence they even have any desire to do so. There is only his war, and it goes on and on.
Mr. President, our troops and their families, more than anybody else, deserve better. They deserve better than this strategy, and they deserve better than tactics designed to stop us from a full and open debate about the President's strategy. They deserve better than people avoiding taking a stand, taking a vote on this President's escalation in Iraq.
This debate is already taking place all across America, all across Michigan--in coffee shops, diners, union halls, office parks, at church dinners, and at VFW halls. Americans are speaking out and asking tough questions about this administration's misguided escalation of the war. And in the Senate, in a move that clearly disregards the opinions of the majority of Americans, the Republican leadership has refused to allow a real debate and a vote on the President's escalation.
Four years ago, I stood in this Chamber alongside 22 colleagues and voted no on giving the President the authority to go to war. It was a hard vote. It was a lonely vote. But I was proud to do my duty, along with all of my colleagues, and stand publicly and take a position and have our votes counted. It strikes me as sad that the Senators who support the President's escalation of the war have decided to hide from this opportunity to do the same--to vote their conscience and to tell the American people where they stand, win or lose.
This should not be a discussion of politics. This is a discussion of the most serious policy. Any soldier will tell you that there are no politics in a foxhole. The American people--Republicans, Democrats, and Independents--are asking us to take a look, long and hard, at what we are doing in Iraq. We were not elected to stand silently by while our fellow citizens demand answers. American men and women are in harm's way. Unfortunately, it seems that the Republican leadership doesn't see it that way.
Let me again say, as clearly as possible, that I believe the escalation of this war is not the answer. Putting more Americans in harm's way will not bring our men and women home any sooner. Why would we go further down a path that has led us to this point? Why would we repeat our previous mistakes and call it a ``new strategy'?
A free and stable Iraq can only be secured by the Iraqis. They must embrace responsibility for their collective future and decide that living and dying at the hands of sectarian violence is not the future they want for their children and grandchildren.
We must support their efforts, but we cannot substitute American troops for Iraqi resolve. With the freedom of self-determination comes a responsibility of collective security. I believe we must continue to train the Iraqis and equip them and provide sensible military support, based on the advice of our generals and military experts. And we must lead them by example--by embracing, not turning our backs on, our own democratic process.
The Detroit Free Press, in response to the President's announcement of the escalation, echoed the concerns of people all across Michigan and from around the country, I believe, as well, on January 11, when they wrote:
President George W. Bush at least acknowledged past failings and did not promise roaring success in outlining his new strategy for Iraq in a grim-faced address to the Nation Wednesday night. In fact, he braced the American and Iraqi people for at least another year of bloodshed--maybe the worst yet.
But that does not make this escalation of the war--the President didn't use the word, but that's what he intends to do--the best course of action. It is based on hope without demonstrable evidence that the Iraqi Government and its military are truly ready to take control of their country instead of taking sides in an internal combat. It is based on the belief that an American force of 157,500 can achieve what a force of 135,000 could not, given a little more leeway to act. And it is based on the President's conviction that a decisive military victory in Iraq can somehow break the back of global terrorism.
It won't, any more than the escalation of the war in Vietnam stopped the advance of global communism. Economic and political forces played the larger roles in that. Granted, there are elements of each in the President's new strategy, but where is the functioning government to implement them? Demanding accomplishment does not make it so, and the new leaders of Iraq have accomplished precious little to date.
This is certainly not the strategy the American people had in mind last November when they repudiated the President by stripping his Republican Party of control of Congress. It runs counter to much of what the Iraq Study Group and past military commanders have recommended. It further strains a U.S. military already hard pressed to meet its obligations.
I believe the American people want a new direction in Iraq. What they don't want is more legislative games designed to stop debate or hide from the realities of the situation on the ground which our men and women are facing. Wishful thinking and best-case scenario planning will not make the situation in Iraq any better. Our troops in the field and our fellow citizens here at home demand leadership, critical analysis, a willingness to change course when the evidence shows that we must, and they deserve action.
The Republican leadership can stonewall a vote on this resolution, but they cannot silence the debate. They cannot avoid reality. They cannot avoid the truth.
To every American around the country asking questions, I say thank you--thank you for asking questions, thank you for speaking up, thank you for being a part of the democratic process we hold so dear, and thank you for following your conscience.
There is nothing simple about the situation in Iraq. We all know that. But there is nothing complicated about what America is asking us to do. It is time for all of us--those who oppose the escalation of the war and those who support it--to stand up and have our votes counted.
This is not the time for legislative games. This is too serious a time and too serious a topic. The President has presented a plan. It is time for us to vote.