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Appointment of Conferees on HR 1591, US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I could not support this motion to instruct House conferees on the Defense Supplemental appropriations bill, for two reasons: First, I do not support the idea of rigidly insisting on the parts of the House-passed bill that the motion says the conferees should not change. Second, I believe the funding of our troops and the future of our involvement in Iraq are too important and too serious to be used for cheap partisan tricks.

* My vote was based on my appraisal of the merits of the motion, without regard to how others may have decided to vote. In other words, unlike the gentleman from California who offered it, I took the motion seriously--and, like its author, I opposed it.

* Earlier, when the House considered the Defense Supplemental bill itself, I voted for the bill to ensure that America's soldiers get the equipment and resources they need and the top-quality health care they may require when they come home.

* My vote for the bill was not a vote to support the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq. We are 4 years into a war the Bush Administration assured us would be short and decisive. The Administration's misjudgments, lack of planning and poor leadership have made a bad situation worse--and the tactic of increasing troops for a temporary ``surge'' is no substitute for what is needed, namely, a strategy for containing civil war and a wider regional war.

* While I am convinced that it was a strategic mistake to go to war in Iraq in the way that the Bush Administration did, we are still deeply engaged there--and while our troops are in the field, we must provide them what they need. Beyond supplying our soldiers, however, we must extricate them from what objective defense experts have characterized as an emerging civil war.

* Disengaging from that civil war is the purpose of the provisions in the House-passed bill designed to hold the president accountable to the benchmarks set by his own administration and the Iraqi government--including enactment of a hydro-carbon law; conducting of provincial and local elections; reform of current laws governing the de-Baathification process; amendment of the Constitution of Iraq; and allocation of Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects.

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* I strongly support that approach because I am convinced that holding the president and the Iraqi government accountable for achieving these benchmarks will provide us with the leverage necessary to pressure the Iraqi government to forge the political solution we all know is required. In fact, Defense Secretary Gates has acknowledged that the House-passed a bill has been helpful in this approach by showing the Iraqis that American patience is limited.

* As I said when the House debated the bill, however, I do not believe it was a good idea to include a date certain for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq. As I said then, I do not consider this provision to be wise and if it had been up to me, it would not have been included in the bill. I remain convinced that we should steer clear of arbitrary public deadlines for military actions and focus instead on realistic diplomatic and political goals. Our military needs flexibility to be able to link movements of U.S. troops to the realities of the situation on the ground, and successful diplomacy requires such flexibility as well.

* I voted for the bill despite my reservations about the withdrawal language because the deadline--August of 2008--is far enough away that it can be revisited, and while I did not like its inclusion, I do not believe in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

* But since it would have been better if it had not been included in the first place, I could not vote to instruct the conferees to insist on including it in the conference report.

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