WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada delivered the following statement today on the floor of the United States Senate following the Army’s acknowledgment that it can pay for the Iraq war through June:
Mr. President, the White House has been telling America that Democrats are doing the wrong thing by calling for a change in course in Iraq. They say holding the Iraqi government accountable is wrong. They say finding a political solution in Iraq is wrong and they say redeploying our troops out of a civil war is wrong.
They have said that even debating a strategy for changing course is dangerous and many Senate Republicans have backed that up by blocking several of our attempts to debate this issue on the Senate floor.
The American people want us to debate the war. They want us to change course. Listen to what the president’s own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates said recently: “The debate in Congress . . . has been helpful in demonstrating to the Iraqis that American patience is limited. The strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable probably have had a positive impact . . . in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment.”
The President and some of my Republican colleagues are also attempting to create a false crisis by claiming that Democrats are putting the troops in danger by not sending the supplemental bill immediately.
But today, the Pentagon acknowledged what Democrats have long known – that President Bush continues to misstate the reality on the ground in Iraq to score political points. Like the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon now acknowledges that it can pay for the Iraq war at least through June with the funds it has already been provided.
I hope that the President and my Republican colleagues in Congress will put these false claims aside so that we can get back to working toward bipartisan solutions.
Yesterday, I met with President Bush to express the will of the American people, senior military officials and a bipartisan majority of Congress that we must change course in Iraq.
I told President Bush that after five years, more than 3,300 American soldiers lost and billions depleted from the treasury, we must change course.
Conditions in Iraq get worse by the day, and now we find ourselves policing another nation’s civil war.
We are less secure from the many threats to our national security than we were when the war began.
And as long as we follow the President’s path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course – and we must change course.
No one wants us to succeed in the Middle East more than I do. Our brave men and women overseas have passed every test with flying colors. They have earned our pride and praise, more importantly, they deserve a strategy worthy of their sacrifice.
The supplemental bill we passed with bipartisan support offers just that. It includes a reasonable and attainable timeline to reduce combat missions and refocus our efforts on the real threats to our security.
It offers a new path, a new direction forward. If we put politics aside, I believe we can find a way to make America safer and stronger.