WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a press conference today with Hispanic Congressional leaders in support of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"As we begin the fifth year of this war, it is clear that the Administration's Iraq policy is failing and that we must change direction. The Department of Defense reported last week that: "some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a 'civil war.'" The National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the war is increasing the global terror threat. And, top Pentagon officials have issued dire warnings about the war's effect on our military readiness.
"Tomorrow, this Congress - for the first time in four years - will have the opportunity to change America's course in Iraq. The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act will protect our troops by requiring that troop deployments adhere to current Defense Department standards for training, equipment and armor. The President may waive such standards if he certifies that national security requires it.
"The bill also holds the Iraqi government accountable, requiring it to abide by the benchmarks outlined by President Bush in January. And, the bill provides a responsible strategy for a phased redeployment of U.S. forces - no later than August 31, 2008, about eighteen months from now.
"Now, let me be clear: this bill in no way micro-manages our war effort. Our troops on the ground and General Petraeus will continue to have all the flexibility they need to succeed.
"As we enter the fifth year of this war, it is long past time for this Congress to insist on accountability and a new direction in Iraq. We will no longer be a rubber stamp for a failing policy that has cost us so much in blood and treasure. We must demand a new direction in Iraq. That is precisely what this legislation will provide."