BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. LEE. Mr. Chairman, first let me thank our ranking member, Mr. Dicks, for your leadership for this time, but also for your patriotism and for your commitment to our country and to our troops. And it is an exciting committee, and it's a very important committee. And I want to thank Chairman Rogers for your leadership, and for also his service and for the attempts to bring this committee together in the spirit of bipartisanship.
While I think everyone knows that I respect and support the President and I applaud him for his tremendous leadership on so many issues, like many of
my colleagues, I was tremendously disappointed to hear the President's announcement last night.
Almost three out of four Americans want to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, and this was far from the significant reduction that the American people were expecting. A token troop reduction of 10,000 by the end of this year and waiting another year to remove another 23,000, which in total would merely reverse the 2009 troop escalation, is really, for me, unacceptable; and quite frankly, it flies in the face of the growing bipartisan calls across our war-weary Nation to exit Afghanistan and to refocus on our priorities here at home.
Now, I voted against this original authorization in 2001, which was a very difficult vote for me to cast because I ended up being the only one to cast a ``no'' vote. But I knew then that that authorization was an authorization that was a blank check to wage war for any reason, against any nation, for any length of time. And this has now become the longest war in American history.
As we spend over $2 billion a week on this decade-long war, critical programs--like programs for women and children, nutrition programs, food stamps and Medicare--are on the chopping block. So enough is enough.
There is no military solution in Afghanistan. And in a world where terrorism can emanate from the tribal regions of Yemen or a hotel room in Germany, we cannot adequately address these challenges through a military-first, boots-on-the-ground strategy. It is clear that occupying states and nation-building does not make for effective counterterrorism, and the financial and human costs of continuing this war are indefensible.
With over 1,600 troops killed and tens of thousands more seriously wounded in Afghanistan, the human toll continues to mount each and every day. So we need to bring our troops home and use the savings for our economic challenges here at home, especially for job creation. That's why I'm going to offer some amendments to this bill to end funding for combat operations in Afghanistan and to provide, though, funding for the protection and the safe and orderly withdrawal of our young men and women as quickly as possible. I urge Members to support this amendment.
I will also be offering an amendment to transfer the $5 billion Pentagon war slush fund to a deficit reduction.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. LEE. I want to explain these amendments today during general debate, so I appreciate the time because I think this is important for the public to know that there is a $5 billion Pentagon war slush fund just sitting over there. So I want to offer an amendment to take that war slush fund, $5 billion, and apply it to deficit reduction.
Especially in this time of deficits and a struggling economy, I hope we can all agree that we should not be handing the Pentagon a $5 billion blank check for a war slush fund that has little accountability and runs counter to our constitutional duty to control the purse strings through this Congress.
We also cannot forget about the 45,000 troops in Iraq. I will be offering an amendment to ensure that all of them are brought home at the end of the year as agreed to in our Status of Forces Agreement. My friend and colleague from Illinois, Congresswoman JAN SCHAKOWSKY, and myself will offer an amendment to simply require the Department of Defense to provide audit-ready financial statements. That's a pretty simple request, I would think. Now, this $648 billion budget is $17 billion above last year's budget. It could be cut at least by $75 billion to $100 billion without, mind you, jeopardizing our troops or our national security.
As the daughter of a military veteran, let me just say that I support each and every dollar in this budget for our troops because they deserve our support for their safety and their protection and their economic security; but we should be cutting waste, fraud and abuse out of the Pentagon. And we should begin to cut these Cold War-era weapon systems that have no mission, no reason to be developed in this new world of terrorism when we see ourselves faced with asymmetrical warfare. It just doesn't make any sense. So $648 billion is too much; it's much too much. We can ensure our national security, protect our troops, and reinvest some of these dollars to create jobs at home with a rational defense budget.
We will never pay down our debt as long as the military budget continues to soar.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT