“Simply put, I cannot vote for another $165 billion to give President Bush a blank check and fund the continuation of the war in Iraq, without condition, for over another year.
This is a difficult decision and not one I take lightly. But I believe that the time has come for Congress to exercise the power of the purse and bring this war to a conclusion.
I am a strong supporter of our troops in the field. They have done a tremendous job under difficult circumstances. They weren’t greeted as liberators as Vice President Cheney said they would be.
Instead, they found themselves targets in an internecine battle, whose roots go back hundreds of years. They found themselves in the crossfire between Sunni insurgents and Shia extremists. They’ve done everything asked of them, with the courage and dedication that we expect from our service men and women.
But President Bush has never provided an exit strategy for Iraq. He has never laid out a plan for bringing our troops home.
So, here we are more than five years after this war began. More than 4,000 troops killed. Tens of thousands injured. And no end in sight. $525 billion spent – all designated as emergency spending and none of which is paid for – simply added to our nation’s growing debt.
This is the first major war that has not been paid for, but instead has relied time and time again on emergency supplemental funds outside of the federal budget.
I, along with many of my colleagues in the Senate, have voted again and again for a change of course – to transition the mission. But the minority has obstructed the vote or President Bush has vetoed the bill each time we’ve tried.
So the power of the purse is the only tool we have to change the Iraq war. And it is time to bring this war to a conclusion after five long years.
The $165 billion supplemental funds the war for one year and one month, or until July 2009. This is all funded on the debt. I simply cannot agree to do it.
It would have been one thing if the supplemental had been to fund the war for an additional six months. But it is not. This means that the next administration essentially need not make any move or change until July 2009. This is simply not acceptable to me.
To me, it’s a big mistake to have a supplemental this big because it simply means ‘business as usual.’ And I don’t believe we can be ‘business as usual.’
On Tuesday, I questioned Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the funding for this war. I told Secretary Gates that it is unclear to me why the passage of a $70 billion '09 bridge fund is urgent at this time, particularly given that funding needs for next year are very much up in the air.
I told him that it is my understanding that if DOD transfers funding to the Army to meet its personnel and operational expenses, the Army could stretch its current funding quite far. And I asked how long the Army and Marine Corps could operate without the ’09 bridge fund.
The Secretary said:
“The notion of having to borrow from the base budget in ’09 to pay war costs…we probably could make it work for a number of months.” And “can we technically get thought some part of FY09 without a supplemental? Probably so.”
So the other question that I have been grappling with is why should we provide 13 months of funding now? Where is the urgency to fund this war through July 2009? That is over a year away. It is simply not necessary to appropriate $165 billion for the Iraq War in a single day. This is almost twice the size of any previous supplemental the Senate has considered to date.
President Bush won’t listen to the wishes of the majority of Congress and the American people. He has shown a complete unwillingness to evolve – in the face of compelling evidence of the need for change.
After the fall elections, a new President will offer new ideas and policies, and at the top of the list should be a new plan for Iraq.
Congress should not, during this time of transition and great opportunity to seize the moment and change our war policy, allow the war to linger unaddressed for up to seven months of the new Administration.
Congress should not relinquish its Constitutional right and obligation to use the power of the purse to require the next President to present a plan for Iraq – one that includes the funding he or she will need to put that plan in motion.
So now, we are faced with another choice: Do we provide $100 billion through the end of this year and an additional $66 billion to take us through July 2009? Do we give the next President a pass and affirm that he or she does not have to change the mission or plan an exit strategy until the middle of next year?
I cannot support this.
Passing a year-long supplemental is an abandonment of the power of the purse, the greatest power that the Congress has. I believe that the time has come for the Senate to assert its will, and another year and a month of funding for this war is not the answer.”