Senate Democrats

DEMOCRATS CALL FOR COMPREHENSIVE CONSULTATIONS WITH CONGRESS ON IRAQ

Washington, DC–Leading Senate Democrats sent the following letter to President Bush after his Administration failed to brief the Senate today on the current situation in Iraq and recently delivered an inadequate quarterly report to Congress.  The letter calls for the Bush Administration to reinvigorate its consultation with Congress and to provide better information on Iraq.

In the first five months of this year, cabinet officials have appeared only sporadically before the Senate to discuss Iraq, and the Administration’s most recent quarterly report to the Congress on Iraq (“Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq") failed once again to present a clear and objective picture of what is happening in Iraq. Given the recent escalation of violence and increased threat to U.S. forces, regular and comprehensive briefings are more important than ever.

The text of the letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin, Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Carl Levin, and Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Joe Biden, is below.

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June 7, 2006

The President

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Today, the Senate was expecting to receive a classified briefing from Ambassador Khalilzad on recent developments in Iraq.  Yesterday, however, we learned that Ambassador Khalilzad was not available to conduct this briefing and the Administration was unwilling to make other officials available to brief in his place.  Given the recent escalation of violence, the increasing risk to U.S. forces, and the failure of the Iraqis to agree on the two most important Cabinet positions, we are concerned that not a single national security official from your Administration was willing to appear before a bipartisan group of Senators to explain your strategy in Iraq. 

This decision is even more troubling when you consider that in the first five months of this year, officials from your cabinet have appeared only sporadically before the Senate to discuss Iraq.  In this time, close to 300 troops have died, Iraqis have failed to stand up a unity government, and sectarian violence has increased considerably.  Meanwhile, the Congress was asked to appropriate another $60 billion for the war, pushing the total expenditures for Iraq well over $300 billion. 

With thousands of American lives on the line and with a staggering investment in U.S. resources, the American people and the Congress deserve more complete and regular information about your plans in Iraq.  Therefore, we call upon you, Mr. President, to publicly commit to providing members of Congress sustained and comprehensive briefings and consultations.  These sessions should include regular and detailed briefings from military officials and civilian leaders from the Defense Department, the State Department, the National Security Council and the Intelligence Community. 

Regrettably, the Administration’s most recent quarterly report to the Congress on Iraq (“Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq") was a disappointment.  It failed to present a clear and objective picture of what is happening in Iraq.  Its many shortcomings provide yet another reason for your Administration to produce senior officials on a regular basis who can provide members of Congress with facts and answer the growing number of questions about your strategy. 

We hope you will publicly and immediately commit to making senior Administration officials available.  A continuing failure by your Administration to engage the Congress in a more meaningful and sustained way needlessly complicates our mutual efforts to overcome the many challenges in Iraq. 

Sincerely,

Harry Reid

Senate Democratic Leader

Richard Durbin

Assistant Democratic Leader

Carl Levin

Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Joe Biden

Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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