From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
 

Pelosi: 'Bush's Supplemental Request an $87 Billion Bailout for Mistakes and Miscalculations of His Administration'

October 16, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this afternoon on the House floor in opposition to the President's $87 billion Supplemental budget request for Iraq and in favor of the Democratic substitute offered by Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin. Below are her remarks.

"Mr. Chairman, as Members of Congress we recognize that we have no greater responsibility than that charged to us in the Preamble of the Constitution: to 'provide for the common defense.' We all take that responsibility seriously on both sides of the aisle. The United States military is the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped fighting force the world has ever known. This excellence is due to the dedication of our courageous military men and women and their commanders.

"It is also due to the commitment of this and previous Congresses over many years to 'provide for the common defense' -- by ensuring that our forces have the tools and technologies they need to prevail on the battlefield.

"Whatever our position was for going to war, once we went in, we were one team, one fight. Our military performed their duties excellently. But it is painfully clear that this Administration had no plan to protect our men and women in Iraq against the possibility of a guerilla campaign. The war Supplemental we approved last spring is proof enough. The President asked for and the Congress provided $63 billion to ensure that our soldiers could complete their mission successfully and securely.

"Yet as revealed by our esteemed colleague Congressman Jack Murtha, a decorated veteran whose defense credentials are beyond question, our military personnel are short of Kevlar inserts for their body armor, short of tracks for their Bradley fighting vehicles, short of jammers to protect themselves from the detonation of explosive devices, and short of spare parts generally for the equipment on which they rely. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.

"When the President asked for this $63 billion dollars, we gave it to him. We never got an accounting for it. So when the President hit us with his bombshell of asking for $87 billion additionally, we said we would like to see an accounting of the $63 billion that was appropriated last summer. We want to know why our men and women in uniform do not have the protection they need during this post-war period. We want an accounting, a justification for the $87 billion you are asking for now and we want an accountability for this failed policy.

"The $87 billion request, my colleagues, did not yet even include the funding for the Kevlar and the jammers and the spare parts and the Bradley tracks. It wasn’t really until Mr. Murtha made a big issue of it, and I commend him and I commend Chairman Lewis for putting this in the bill with the help of course from the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but it was not in the President’s request. It was not in the President’s request to protect our troops with what they needed. They had a chance to do that and they did not. I find that very unacceptable.

"As Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni said, and others have repeated here, the level of sacrifice has not been matched by the level of planning. What he exactly said is this: 'They should never be put on a battlefield without a strategic plan. Not only for fighting, our generals will take care of that, but for the aftermath and winning that war. Where are we, the American people, if we accept this level of sacrifice without that level of planning.'

"America wants to know: What was that $63 billion spent on? Besides the gold-plated, single-source, no-bid contracts for politically-connected contractors, we simply do not know.

"So that’s why we take issue with the $87 billion request. Don’t take it from me. General David Petraeus, a great general whom many of us have met on our visits to the theater. He has said that U.S. engineers called for $15 million to turn a cement factory into a state-of-the-art factory. Our troops, working with the Iraqis, got it up and running, not for $15 million but for $80,000. For $80,000. We were not responsible for $15 million state-of-the-art. It’s up and running for $80,000.

"You hear this over and over again. Again, to date, there’s been no accounting for that money, no accountability for the policy. As a result, American soldiers are taking virtually all the risks and American taxpayers are paying virtually all the bills. Our men and women in uniform deserve better. The American people deserve better.

"Make no mistake: the President’s Supplemental budget request is an $87 billion bailout for mistakes and miscalculations of this Administration. They miscalculated the risk. You saw and you heard General Zinni’s statement about that. They misunderstood the challenge. And they misrepresented the cost.

"One week into the war, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told Mr. Murtha and Mr. Lewis’Appropriations subcommittee on defense: 'We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.' How wrong that was.

"And we know that this is not the end of it. The Administration has told us they need $50 to $75 billion more for infrastructure. When we asked them why they didn’t put this in the President’s $87 billion request, they said that they were going to get it from oil revenues and our allies. Again, a miscalculation. That is obviously not happening, so let us be clear - what we are considering today is not a final package, it is a down payment. It is an installment, with more to come.

"The American people look to us to ask the difficult questions, to ensure accountability, and not to rubber stamp a policy that has failed in terms of its planning and has therefore endangered the lives of our sons and daughters in uniform.

"We all appreciate what we need to do. We must address the needs of our forces in Iraq. We must bring stability to that country. We must invest in the infrastructure.

"The Administration wants us to do a gold-plated, no-bid contract version of the story. They want the gold-plated version, and they have a tin ear to what the American people are saying. They all say: 'We honor our responsibilities. We honor our men and women in uniform. But please do not put our children into debt, our grandchildren into debt, without some idea of how this is going to be paid for and some idea of what the costs will be.'

"We would have been better off if we had internationalized this from the start, but we didn’t. So now what we need to do is what Mr. Murtha said over and over again. We need to energize Iraq -- turn on the lights and the water so we can proceed with the reconstruction. To hear the Administration tell the tale, this has all been done. But nonetheless, more is required. We must Iraqitize it by giving the Iraqis more authority and responsibility to do what they need to do for their country.

"We must internationalize the effort so our troops are not taking all the risks and our taxpayers paying all the bills.

"The question before us today is simple: what is the best way to achieve this goal? It is a complicated matter, but the question is simple. What is the best way to do this? The answer to me is clear: the Obey substitute. It is the more responsible approach, both fiscally and militarily.

"It does more for our men and women in uniform before, during, and after their deployments. The Obey amendment better protects American taxpayers and their children and grandchildren because it is paid for, and, by having the World Bank administer a loan program for a portion of the reconstruction effort, will hopefully stimulate more international financial involvement.

"In short, the Obey amendment does more to support our troops and encourage international participation in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq and costs the American taxpayers less. It deserves our support.

"Unfortunately, the Obey amendment will not be allowed to be presented and voted on the floor. And I know why - it’s brilliant. If it were presented as an alternative to the $87 billion Bush request, it would probably attract Republican support. It would have an impact on this failed policy, so sadly we won’t have a chance to vote on it. It’s really always interesting to me that it’s against the rules of the House that is paid for. That makes it out of order.

"I think we ought to see the Obey substitute, and the whole debate, in the context of where we are as a country. Here we are, the greatest military that ever was. Our economy, hopefully soon up and running, is the greatest engine for economic growth in the world. The power of our ideas have been a source of strength to us and to others in the world forever. So we’re strong in every way. And yet, never, ever have we been more dependent on other countries for the security of our people.

"If we are going to succeed in Iraq, we must reach out to others. President Kennedy said it best in his inaugural address. Some of us were in school at the time and heard the inaugural address. Everybody knows, 'My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.' Children learn that; others of us actually were there to hear it.

"The very next line in that speech is, 'My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of mankind.' Let that be our clarion call. What we, working together for the people of the world, can do for the freedom of mankind. So that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where there is a tyrant -- and good riddance to him -- but where we have to go in with inadequate intelligence, inadequate international support, and have our kids take all of the risks. Let’s show the greatness of our country as well as the strength of our country.

"We could do that by supporting the Obey amendment today. In the absence of that, let us hope that we could have our policy recognize once again that the security of our great country has never been more dependent on others for the safety of our own people.

"With that, Mr. Chairman, I reiterate my opposition to the $87 billion bailout of the failed Bush policy and my support of the Obey amendment."


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