THE NATIONAL DEBT AND THE WAR IN IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - September 04, 2007)
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Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Arkansas. It is an honor for me to be here tonight.
I would like to say to the gentleman from Arkansas, that is exactly right. One of the things I plan on talking about tonight are really two things, the small business tax cuts that we established in this Congress this past May, and also the Iraq Accountability Act, because I think it is telling.
There are a couple of housekeeping things if I may mention, Mr. Speaker. I know the gentleman from Tennessee was just speaking about an Eisenhower moment and talked about reaching out to those Americans from both sides of the aisle and letting them know about this common sense leadership we are trying to propose. What he mentioned was we need to listen and look at some common sense solutions. I think that is what people appreciate about the Blue Dogs. We are willing to reach across the aisle when need be to move our country in a new direction.
I know there are a lot of folks back home I know, some of which are my wife right now. My wife Jenny is at home. I left this morning. I spoke at the Rotary Club and I was at a school for the first day of classes starting back today back in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Then I had a meeting, and then I rushed down here in Washington.
It is an honor for me to be here tonight. It is tough as far as leaving your wife, and we are blessed with a 9 month old daughter Maggie Murphy, who we had her swimming out there yesterday. She was adorable.
I know this is a different form of public service. I know the gentleman from Arkansas mentioned that I served in the military. I am very proud of my military service. I am very proud that I wore that U.S. Army uniform for the first time back in 1993, and now that we are here in 2007, I am proud to be a Member of Congress. This is a different form of public service, but one just as important. I know the sacrifices that we have to give up, leaving our families to come down here to Washington and then to go back home on the weekends. It is a tough schedule, but one that we promised to do to the best of our abilities.
I know my colleague over here from New York, Mr. Arcuri, Mike Arcuri just got married the other day. I want to congratulate him on his marriage. I think he believes in what we all believe in, that we love our troops so much, I think he spent his honeymoon going over to see those troops in Iraq, leaving his new wife, Sabrina, to go over to those troops.
We had a conversation on this floor tonight when we were voting talking about his trip over there, how he went and let those troops know, especially the ones that are from New York, from his district, that he cares about them, that he took the time out of his schedule to be there with them, to break bread with them and let them know that he is fighting for them here in Washington.
I believe those troops understand what the stakes are right now. They understand that this United States House of Representatives, this body supports the troops 100 percent. We may disagree with our colleagues on the foreign policy and the foreign aspects of it, but never question the commitment and the honor that our troops are serving with. I believe that is why we all take time out of our schedules to let them know we care for them, to make sure that we draft the most effective policy to support them and do everything possible to make sure their families back at home know we are supporting them 100 percent.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to talk first, because after I left that Rotary Club this morning and then I was at that opening day of school at the Abrams Hebrew School in Yardley, Pennsylvania. I went down the road to two small businesses that are in Yardley, Pennsylvania. My district, as you know are, is all of Bucks County, northeast Philadelphia and a small slice of Montgomery County.
But when you look at Bucks County, there are 60,000 small businesses in Bucks County. Ninety-nine percent of our businesses are small business. And
what we passed in this House, I am very proud about, is $1.3 billion in tax cuts for those small businesses. We did it not just writing a blank check and passing that debt that we talk about to our kids, we did it in a fiscally responsible
way, the way that Blue Dogs believe, a pay-as-you-go system.
Everyone is real quick to write tax breaks and tax cuts, but never figure out to how to pay for it. Just increase our debt. Increase our debt. When the President signs $1.7 billion in tax cuts, it sounds great. Everyone wants a tax break. I want a tax break. But how are you going to pay for it, Mr. President? Not on the backs of our kids. Not on the backs of the next generation. We need the pay-as-you-go.
So when my daughter was born 9 months ago, when Maggie Murphy was born, she was born in Lower Bucks Hospital, she was born in this country owing $29,000 to our national debt. We owe $9 trillion in this country. A lot of that debt we owe to foreign countries, China, Korea, Japan. We borrowed $367 billion from Mexico.
So that means per month, per month we average about $21 billion just to pay the interest on this debt. It is like a credit card. You have to pay interest on your credit card before you even get into paying the principal off. Per month we have to pay $21 billion in interest.
To make a comparison, budgets are choices. Budgets are moral documents. Per month in the Federal Government we spend $21 billion just on the interest, but we only pay $5 billion on the Federal level on education. And to keep America more competitive, we need to invest in education. So that is why it is important that we partner with small businesses. That is what we do with the $1.3 billion in tax cuts.
How it worked out, I had two business owners, one was a CEO, his name is Neil Matheson today, and when he started a business, he was the only employee. You fast forward it, now it is a 250 person business. They have 140 of those employees in my district, and I am proud that many of them live and work in Bucks County. I talked to him. And another president of a small business was Kevin Kruse.
I talked to Neil Matheson and I talked to Kevin Kruse, and I talked to them about the challenges they faced before I was running for Congress and then I talked to them when I became a Member of Congress. We passed this, and they talked about how important this bill was that we passed.
Per year, they commented, Kevin Kruse specifically commented, big corporations which employ Americans, big corporations can sell if they needed some money infusion, they can sell stocks or go public. Small businesses don't have that option. So they have to worry about their cash intake and their cash flow.
So what Mr. Kruse said today when I was with him, he said this tax cut that the Democratic Congress passed, that the Blue Dogs championed, saves my business $13,000 more in deductions per year now because we established it through the IRS Tax Code through a pay-as-you-go system. That is serious money. That is serious money. That is why they stood with me today when we talked about it.
Before I joined the House of Representatives, Mr. Speaker, I talked about more accountability and greater oversight in Iraq and over the Iraqi war operations. I am a proud Member of the Blue Dog Coalition. I have been calling for accountability in Iraq on the floor of this great body for 8 months now. In fact, some of my Blue Dog colleagues have been demanding common sense oversight on the floor of this House for more than 4 years before I even got here.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the problem with these repeated calls for action is they seem to be falling on deaf ears down the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House.
Mr. Speaker, the American public and our families at home are demanding some answers. Earlier this year we introduced House Resolution 97, to set up a Truman-type commission to track fraud, waste and abuse in Iraq. This was after the reports from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction came to the House Armed Services Committee, came to the committee that I have the honor to serve on, and he said there is $9 billion missing and 14,000 weapons that are missing in Iraq. But recently, the Government Accountability Office, again, nonpartisan, came and reported that now the number of weapons that are missing in Iraq went from 14,000 to 190,000. Think about that; 190,000 weapons, and 110,000 of those weapons were AK-47 rifles.
Now, when I was in the military when I joined, I used to sing a cadence when you are running in the morning, we call it PT, physical training. The cadence said, ``Used to date a beauty queen; now I date my M-16.''
See, you held that M-16 rifle to you as if it was your girlfriend or your loved one, because you can never miss it. When you are in the field at night and you fell asleep and you had a few hours to catch some shuteye, you tied it around your leg so no one would steal it from you.
That is called accountability. That is what the Blue Dogs stand for. That is why I joined this organization when I came to Congress. I was honored to be selected and to be part of them.
You think about 110,000 weapons just missing in Iraq. Just missing. Imagine those weapons in the hands of Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.
The accountability is not happening in Iraq. It is not our troops' fault, it is the Iraqi people's fault, because they are not stepping up to the plate. You know, you lose a weapon in the U.S. military, you are probably going to be court-martialed. In Iraq, you are probably given a new one. That is a major difference and one that we can't stand for.
These rifles are like the ones I used to carry when I was in Baghdad, Iraq. When I was there four summers ago, Mr. Speaker, August was called fire month. The month of August in Iraq is called fire month because it gets so hot. Imagine our troops over in Iraq right now, in 130 degree weather, with all that equipment on, every day working their tails off to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, that oath that they took when they became members of our great military.
You look back at January when the President made the decision to escalate our troops over there. I spoke out against it. I thought it was the wrong policy. But the President overrode our decisions in Congress and he said, just give us 6 to 9 months for a political solution.
You look now, and I said then I am against the policy but I hope this surge works. I hope the escalation of troops works. I want our troops in Iraq to succeed. I spent months of my life there, and I care for the Iraqi people and I love our troops.
But now it has been 9 months. Now you look at what is really happening. They said 6 to 9 months to allow a political solution to happen. Nine months later, you had the Iraqi Parliament take a summer vacation. Take a summer vacation, when our troops are fighting every single day.
You had the Shia government that is in power now, before the Sunnis were in power, now it is the Shia, it is a democracy, they have to reach across the table and work with the Sunnis. They have got to put their personal beliefs aside for one Iraq.
So the Shia leadership, President Maliki said, okay, we are going to reach these benchmarks. We are going to do these commonsense things that we pledged to do now for years. They still haven't done them. Things like sharing oil revenue with the Sunnis, they haven't done them.
So what political solution do we have right now, Mr. Speaker? We have the Sunnis saying I quit. I quit. You don't see our troops quit. You see our troops standing up every single day.
For those listeners at home, you make sure when you see a troop, whether it is in a restaurant or airport or train station, you don't have to give them a long speech. You might not agree with the foreign policy of the United States of America. But I ask my fellow Americans, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that you tell those troops when you see them out there in every day America, say thank you very much for serving our country. That is all you need to say. It means the world to them.
I took my wife out, I had a date night the other night. I took my wife out, we went to Red Lobster. My wife's grandmother watched our little daughter. We went to date night, and, Mr. Speaker, after dinner she went to the restroom to use it at the Red Lobster.
I am waiting in the car, and waiting to get into the Red Lobster was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard. He was there with his family. I took the keys out of the car. I ran up to him real quick. I was dressed not like a Congressman, I was just like a regular guy, just a regular shirt and I had shorts on him. I said to him, I said, hey, troop, I just want you to know that I appreciate your service to our country.
Then we started talking a little bit and at the end I told him I was a congressman and gave him my card. I said, If there is anything I can ever do, you let me know, and I will keep you in my prayers.
He got choked up and said, Thank you, Mr. Congressman, I appreciate that.
I told him, Just call me ``Patrick.'' You don't have to call me ``Mr. Congressman.''
We have meetings in Washington on the Armed Services Committee. I am also honored to serve on the Intelligence Committee. We also have meetings of the Blue Dog Democrats. We talk about these things at the Blue Dog Democrat meetings. We care with every fiber of our being for these troops.
Mr. Speaker, I was at a meeting with the Blue Dogs at 5:00, or 1700 as they say in military time. I passed around a sheet talking about how can we take care of our troops.
When troops get orders to deploy, sometimes they don't have a lot of time. Sometimes they have rent. Well, they don't need to have an apartment if they are in Iraq or Afghanistan for 15 months, so they want to break their lease. There is Federal law, there is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, so they can break their lease. It is a commonsense bill that this Congress passed. There is a bill that says expand that now to allow our troops who have cell phones, a 1-year or 2-year program, why not allow the troops to break their cell phone contracts. Their cell phones are from Verizon or Cingular, and they don't have cell phones over in Baghdad or in Afghanistan. That commonsense approach says let them break their cell phone lease under Federal law. That is the type of backing that they need.
To get back to the Iraq Accountability Act, Mr. Speaker, you look at what this Iraq Accountability Act has done to shed light on fraud, waste and abuse. The report that I just mentioned about the 190,000 weapons is a disgrace when you talk about accountability.
Last month, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan; 73 criminal investigations. That is 73 investigations on contracts totaling $5 billion. That is billion with a ``b,'' Mr. Speaker. The charges so far identify more than $15 million in bribes. If there is ever a time for a new direction in Iraq, now is the time, Mr. Speaker. If there is ever a time for accountability and oversight, now is the time, Mr. Speaker.
And as long as my fellow Blue Dogs and I are here in the House's great body, we will keep calling, we will keep fighting for what American families and what American troops deserve, and that is civilian leadership that is just as smart and savvy as those troops on the ground.
I want to thank again the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Ross, for allowing me to speak. I appreciate your leadership role with the Blue Dog Democrats.
When I was home, Mr. Speaker, and I was talking to those families in Bucks County, many told me, Mr. Congressman, I like that are you a Blue Dog and that you are standing up for fiscal responsibility and you stand up for change. I like the fact that you stand up for a new direction. I like the fact that you talk about that $9 trillion in debt that we have right now and how it is immoral to pass it on to our kids, because it is. I like the fact that the Blue Dogs stand up and say you have a pay-as-you-go system, not a pass-the-buck system. That is what happened before. That's leadership.
And, Mr. Speaker, to the gentleman from Arkansas, to my colleague from the great State of New York, it is a great honor to be among your midst as a fellow Blue Dog.
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