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WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor tonight in favor of H.R. 2206, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007. The following is his statement as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, let every Member here – and all those watching this debate at home – be perfectly clear: This legislation fully funds our troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring that they have the resources they need to conduct their missions.
“Not only that, this bill includes additional funding – funding not requested by the President – to fight the war on terror, to improve America’s military readiness, and to meet our veterans’ unmet health care needs.
“However, while this legislation funds our troops, it insists – for the first time in more than four years – that the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government be accountable. Plain and simple, this legislation responds to the will of the American people, who are dismayed by the most incompetent implementation of American foreign policy in a generation.
“On Tuesday, a CNN Poll found that two-thirds of Americans oppose this war. And, 61 percent support benchmarks like the ones in this bill that would measure Iraqi progress.
“Thus, Mr. Speaker, this legislation holds the President and the Iraqi government accountable by ‘fencing off’ $52.8 billion of the $95.5 billion provided to the Defense Department until released by subsequent legislation. Before this additional funding is released, the President must report to Congress by July 13 regarding the success of the Iraqi government in meeting security and political benchmarks, such as:
• disarming militias;
• enacting legislation to equitably share oil revenue;
• reforming the de-Baathification process; and
• providing for provincial elections.
“Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States himself has stated that our commitment in Iraq is not open-ended. Yet he continues to insist on a bill with no strings attached. To this, we say: No more. No more blank checks. Not after more than 3,370 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq and more than 25,000 have been injured. Not after the American taxpayer has spent nearly half a trillion dollars on this war. And, not after four years of egregious misjudgments by this administration – from Mission Accomplished, to the insurgency is in its last throes, to Iraq will fund its own reconstruction.
“Every Member in this body hopes and prays that the current troop escalation succeeds; that the Iraqis stabilize and secure their country; and that our troops can return home safely. But there is little reason for optimism when the violence in Iraq continues unabated, and progress on the ground is somewhere between elusive and non-existent.
“The two-step funding approach in this legislation is not only appropriate, it is imperative. Even the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has stated: “I think the time to look at where we are ... is late summer.”
“We cannot want to succeed more than the Iraqis. They must take the lead in restoring stability and securing their nation. And, the Iraqi parliament must not go on vacation while American men and women are fighting and dying for them.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: support this bill. Let us forge a new direction in Iraq and implement a policy designed to succeed.”