Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today delivered the following speech in the U.S. Senate before a landmark Saturday vote on whether to move forward with a debate on the President’s Iraq escalation policy. The text of the speech is below. Mr. President, it’s rare for the Senate to hold a Saturday vote but the issue before us is too important to wait. There are challenges facing America today, but there is no greater challenge facing America today than finding a new direction in Iraq. And every Senator in this Chamber has a responsibility and an obligation to say whether they support or oppose the President’s plan to escalate the war. The House of Representatives has already acted – 246-182. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn to give advice to the President – - that he is wrong in sending tens of thousands more American soldiers to a Civil War in far away Iraq. In a few moments, a vote will occur on a straightforward resolution, which simply states: we support our troops and oppose escalation of the intractable Iraq war. My colleagues on the other side of this chamber – colleagues who blocked an Iraq debate last week – have a choice to make: Do they intend to join the American people in opposing more of the same in Iraq, or do they intend to continue to give the President a green light to escalate the war? Let the debate proceed. Let the Senate express its views on the issue of our times. This month, the Iraq war has cost – on average -the lives of three American soldiers every day – - putting us on pace for the bloodiest February since the war began. It is threatening our nation’s strategic interests… and risking our nation’s security. To date, America has lost 3,133 soldiers in the streets and highways of Iraq… We’ve seen tens-of-thousands more wounded… The war has strained our military, and depleted our Treasury of almost $500 billion dollars. Iraqis are dying at a rate of 100 a day in a vicious sectarian civil war. 2 million Iraqis have fled their own country. By every measure, the administration’s failures have put us in a deep hole in Iraq. Yet, the President’s new… old plan – escalation… more of the same – won’t get us out of the hole, it will only dig it deeper. Our generals, the Iraq Study Group, and the Iraqis themselves have told us escalation will only make Iraq worse … intensify our costs… and require even greater sacrifices from American troops – - many of whom are being sent to Baghdad without the proper armor… and equipment… and training they need. On this issue – escalation… more of the same – the Senate must speak. The Senate – - on behalf of the American people – - must make it clear to the Commander-in-Chief that he no longer has a rubber-stamp in Iraq. We must show the American people the United States Senate heard their message last November, and we, as Senators, are fighting for a new direction for the 134,000 troops already in Iraq and the up to 48,000 additional military personnel the President would send. The United States Senate owes as much to these soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. We must proceed with this debate, and change the course of a war that has now raged going into its 5th year. Mr. President, I know some of my Republican colleagues would like to cloud the debate. I know some of my Republican colleagues would like to delay the debate. I know some of my Republican colleagues would like to have no debate. Most of the Republican Minority wish to protect President Bush from an embarrassing vote. They are trying to divert attention from the issue at hand. They’d like to turn the Senate into a procedural quagmire. They want to hide behind weak and misleading arguments about the Senate’s rules, or a Senator’s right to offer amendments. These arguments are diversions. Today’s vote is about more than procedure. It’s an opportunity to send a powerful message – - the Senate will no longer sit on the sidelines while our troops police an ugly civil war in a nation far, far away. The issue before America today is escalation. That is why the Senate’s responsibility must be a vote on escalation – whether the so-called "surge" is supported or opposed. This is the choice – more war or less war. Mr. President, today, I applaud the courage of a few hearty Republicans who will vote cloture and allow this vote to occur As I said, most of the Republican Minority wish to protect President Bush from this vote. They intend to vote for what is best for their political party. But as President John F. Kennedy said: "Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." Today in the United States Senate, Republican Party loyalty asks too much. In the Senate this Saturday… this February 17th… is the time for Senators to vote for openness… for transparency – - to show their constituents in all 50 states – do our Senators support or oppose sending up to 48,000 more U.S. soldiers and marines into the darkness of Iraq. During the week, we heard speeches about supporting our troops. The best way to support them is to ensure they have a strategy that will let them complete the mission, so they can come home. We need a new direction in Iraq. Escalation is not the answer. More of the same is not the answer. The answer is to tell the President – not more, but less war. I urge my colleagues to vote cloture, and thus vote to change course in this bloody war 7 thousands 500 miles from this Senate floor.