Contact:Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and leaders of veterans groups held a stakeout this morning following President Bush's speech on Iraq. Below are the Speaker's opening remarks:
"I want to join Leader Reid in welcoming our special guests today, our friends from the veterans' community, Bobby Muller, whom we've all worked with over the years, whether it's eliminating land mines and speaking out for veterans.
"Thank you, Bobby, for your leadership. Jon Soltz, who has been very courageous in his statements of shining the light on troops on what is happening in Iraq. We're also joined by Miguel Sapp and Brian McGough, who are Iraq vets.
"I want to say to them how much we all appreciate their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they were willing to make for our country.
"In the military there's a saying, that when we're in battle, we don't leave any soldiers behind on the battlefield. We in Congress have said to our veterans: 'And when you come home, you will not be forgotten.'
"That's why I was very proud to join Leader Reid in putting forth the biggest increase in veterans' benefits in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. That is how we honor our troops. That is how we support our troops.
"The Leader asked two questions. Are we safer? And when are we going to bring the troops home?
"I'd like to elaborate on them. When we know that the real war on terror is in Afghanistan, how can we have that real effort, with a sustained effort in Iraq continuing?
"And when are we going to bring the troops home?
"This is a question we have been asking the President over and over again. I posed it in a letter to him this week, when I said: 'Mr. President, in your speech, I want you to tell us, what are the conditions that would make the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq possible?'
"What is the impact of this war on the readiness of our military, which our military leaders have rated as unacceptable?"
"We need better answers from the President. Certainly, he sent General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to the Congress. We respect them for their service to our country.
"But we need answers from the commander-in-chief. We need real answers from the commander in chief, from the President of the United States.
"Leader Reid is correct. We have, over and over again, tried to send to the President's desk what is really the law, the guidelines of the Department of Defense, that the dwell time in deployment should not exceed the dwell time at home, and that should not exceed 15 months. And that's a lot to begin with.
"I know others will address that issue, but I think it should not be lost on anyone that this suggestion the President is making now is long overdue and something the Republicans in Congress and the President of the United States have rejected over and over again.
"The cost of this war is huge: over 4,000 -- 17 just in the last few days -- of our troops lost; tens of thousands of them injured, many of them, thousands of them permanently.
"The cost in our reputation in the world has been severely damaged. The cost in taxpayer dollars has been astronomical. And another question we have for the President is, when are the Iraqis going to use some of their budget surplus for their own reconstruction instead of continuing to take us deeper into debt to pay for that reconstruction?
"The President has taken us into a failed war, he's taken us deeply into debt and he's taking -- that debt is taking us into recession. We need some answers from the President.
"And that's why we want the President to manage this war better, to answer the questions to the American people, and, again, I agree with Leader Reid -- he is just dragging this out so he can put it at the doorstep of the new President of the United States.
"And may I add, if he doesn't change his economic policy, he will be leaving a failed war policy and a failed economy at the doorstep of that new President.
"Today we have been joined from some of America's brave veterans. They believe that improving the situation in Iraq cannot wait for the next Administration, and we agree.
"It is time for this President to lead, and lead us in a New Direction."