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Statement of Majority Leader Hoyer
on Iraq Bill:
"Will we change direction in Iraq? Or, will we continue to stay the course with a failing policy?"
WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) made the following statement on the House Floor tonight in support of the Iraq supplemental bill:
"Mr. Speaker, tonight, this House will adopt this reasonable conference report that fully funds our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that responds to the will of the American people, who are demanding that our nation change direction in Iraq.
"I urge all of the Members here – on both sides of the aisle – to support it. And, after the Senate passes this conference report and it is sent to the White House, I urge the President to sign it – even though he seems determined to veto this legislation, thereby defying the will of the American people, 70 percent of whom disapprove of his handling of the situation in Iraq.
"Now, I know that there is not a Member of this body who does not pray for our success in Iraq and the safe return of our brave servicemen and women.
"However, we cannot ignore the facts. After the loss of more than 3,300 American soldiers and nearly 25,000 injured, and after the expenditure of more than $400 billion on a war now in its fifth year, even President Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates acknowledge that our efforts are not succeeding.
"The Defense Department has concluded that the situation in Iraq is “properly descriptive of a civil war.” The Army Chief of Staff has issued warnings about the effect of the war on America’s overall military readiness. And, the Iraqi government has failed to meet political goals, such as reversing de-Baathification, drafting a plan for national reconciliation, and disbanding militias.
"In fact, last week, six ministers loyal to Muqtada al Sadr withdrew from the Iraqi government, imperiling the chances of political resolution – which general Petraeus says is imperative because “there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq.”
"Meanwhile, the violence in Iraq only continues. In just the last two weeks, a suicide attack inside the Iraqi Parliament killed eight, and spectacular car bombs – which occur almost daily – have killed hundreds.
"Thus, Mr. Speaker, the question before the members again today is this: Will we change direction in Iraq? Or, will we continue to stay the course with a failing policy?
"The answer is clear. After four years of rubber-stamping this Administration’s failing policy, this Congress must insist on accountability and a new direction in Iraq. More blank checks from this Congress would constitute an abdication of our responsibility and our duty.
"In short, this conference report protects our troops, requiring deployments to adhere to existing Defense Department standards for training, equipment and armor, while allowing the President to waive such standards if our national security requires it.
"The conference report holds the Iraqi government accountable, measuring its performance by the benchmarks outlined by President Bush himself. And, it includes a responsible strategy for a phased redeployment of U.S. forces, and refocuses our efforts on fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"Now, no one should be misled by the false claims of those who argue that we must follow the same failing stay-the-course strategy. This bill does not constitute capitulation or “micro-manage” the war.
"As retired General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, recently stated: “This bill gives General Petraeus great leverage for moving the Iraqi government down the more disciplined path laid out by the Iraq Study Group. The real audience for the timeline language is Prime Minister al-Maliki and the elected government of Iraq.”
"Mr. Speaker, the American people want and deserve a Congress that holds the Iraqis accountable for making progress, and that holds the Administration accountable for implementing a policy designed to succeed.
"This conference report gives us that opportunity. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to vote for it. And, I urge the President to reconsider his veto threat, and to sign this legislation, which fully funds our troops and responds to the will of the American people."