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Tell Us the Truth

Location: Washington, DC

TELL US THE TRUTH -- (House of Representatives - February 10, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Beauprez). Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cooper) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I am here tonight to make one very simple point. Sometimes the simplest points are the most powerful.

Families across America are probably eating supper about this time, a little worried about the future of the country, wondering whom they can trust.

Well, just a few weeks ago in this Chamber, we had the great speech of the year, the President's State of the Union message. And the President walked down this aisle in a crowded Chamber, most of the House and the Senate and the Supreme Court and other dignitaries were here. It was broadcast, of course, live on national television. And at this podium right here the President spoke and delivered a powerful message. There were many lines where there was applause; and one of them was this one, because we knew on that day, on January 20, that the President would be delivering his budget. That is a very complicated document. It is thousands of pages long. It takes months to prepare, and probably on that very night it was already at the printers, the type being set.

Well, perhaps the President was poorly served by one of his speech writers, but one of the lines in the President's important message was this one: the President said on the night of January 20 in this Chamber, he said that "in two weeks I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs."

Well, in 2 weeks he did send us a budget. It arrived here on February 2. Most of us have had a chance, especially those of us who have the privilege of serving on the Committee on the Budget, to dig through that budget and find what is in and what is not there. And to our surprise and disappointment, especially after the President's remarks just a few weeks ago in this Chamber on live national television, the budget does not fund the war. In fact, to read the President's budget, you would think that we are not at war at all.

Now, the President's budget does include over $400 billion to fund our Defense Department, and that is good; and most of this Chamber will support it and support it strongly. But that is largely a peace-time budget. That number would have been the same whether we were involved in fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or not. So the budget that the President promised us that funds the war, and presumably he meant here the war on terrorism, the war where 120,000 of our troops are currently serving in Iraq and 10,000 of our troops are currently serving in Afghanistan, presumably the President meant the war most Americans worry about when they go to bed and pray about when they wake up in the morning because almost every day there is a casualty.

I think American families want the truth. We support our President. We want him to succeed. We want our Nation to succeed. We want our troops to win in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we need to be told the truth. We need to betold the extent of the sacrifice that we are being asked to make.

The rumor around here is that we will be asked after November's election to come up with another $50 billion to fund the war. I will probably support that. I supported the $87 billion supplemental request that the President asked us to support because we cannot leave our troops hanging in the fields. We have to support our men and women in uniform, and I am delighted to do that. But should we not be told the cost up front?

In the President's budget, which he promised to deliver to us and which would fund the war, he has essentially a zero figure for funding our men and women in uniform. Zero, nada, zilch, nothing.

Well, that is not accurate. That is not fair. That is not honest. I think that undermines the support of our men and women in uniform who are out there risking their lives for us and for our freedom every day. And in our budget, our central planning document for this government, we have nothing for them.

Many of us are aware of the shortcomings of supplies for our troops already. Our troops did not have the bullet-proof vests that they have needed to protect themselves in Iraq. Many of our vehicles, our Humvees and Bradleys, did not have sufficient spare parts. We did not have sufficient equipment to try to deal with the IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, that our troops are threatened with every day.

There are many needs that our troops have that we have not adequately funded and that we should fund and that the American taxpayer, I think, would be glad to pay for. But we have to be told the price. And it is only fair and honest to tell us the price before the election, not to hide it until after election day.

Mr. Speaker, I think most Americans as they sit at home eating dinner, and as we try to do our jobs in this body, want to listen to and believe the President's message, want to follow as much as we can what he asks us to do because he is our Commander in Chief, but he has got to tell us the truth.

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