WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the FY 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act, which includes funding for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and pandemic flu. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I urge my colleagues to support this supplemental appropriations bill, which makes vital investments in the needs of our troops, responsible policy abroad, and security at home. And I want to thank Chairman Obey and his staff for their hard work in putting this legislation together.
“First of all, the supplemental helps our troops stay safe in harm’s way, and honors their service when they return home. Some of its most notable provisions include $4.8 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, to protect our troops from explosions on the road; $1.2 billion for health and support programs for military families; and $734 million to retroactively compensate servicemembers and veterans for every month their service was extended by stop-loss orders.
“The supplemental also makes important commitments to our national security. It follows through on President Obama’s commitment to remove all combat troops from Iraq by 2010, and it refocuses our attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which remain havens for terrorists seeking to destabilize the region and harm Americans. American military involvement is an important part of our effort for a stable Afghanistan that no longer harbors terrorists—but that effort also includes training Afghan security forces and police, development work, and a diplomatic surge. Of the $5.1 billion that this supplemental dedicates to Afghanistan, $3.6 billion is intended for local security forces, $980 million for efforts to strengthen the economy and the rule of law, and $536 million for civilian diplomacy.
“We have also come to understand, as President Obama has repeatedly stressed, that the stability of Afghanistan is intimately tied to the stability of Pakistan, which is under threat from a resurgent Taliban. I believe that this supplemental will help reduce that threat, through comprehensive funding for counterinsurgency, development, and diplomacy programs in Pakistan. But it is also essential that the Afghan and Pakistani governments hold up their end of the bargain. That is why this legislation requires the President to report to Congress, by February of next year, on the progress of those governments in five key areas: the level of political consensus; the level of corruption and steps taken to eliminate it; success in counterinsurgency; the cooperation of their intelligence services with the United States; and the governments’ ability to control their territory. This information will be essential to ensuring that our policy remains realistic and wise—and, I hope, ultimately successful—in this critical region of the world.
“Finally, this supplemental makes a number of other important investments in our security. These include funding for pandemic flu preparedness and vaccine stockpiles, the importance of which have been dramatically demonstrated in the past weeks; funding to address violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, a priority I strongly support after visiting Mexico just last month; and funding for important international food, refugee, and disaster assistance.
“Mr. Speaker, this supplemental embodies responsible spending on some of our most important national priorities. I urge my colleagues to support it.”