WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
Yesterday, the Senate held two important votes:
- On the Feingold Amendment, which called for transitioning the mission
- And on the Warner amendment, which would have required the President to certify that the Iraqi government is meeting benchmarks in order to receive U.S. aid.
I supported the Feingold amendment, which provided a real change of course out of the war. I opposed the Warner amendment, because after more than four years of war, 3,400 American deaths, 20,000 wounded, and nearly $500 million in taxpayer dollars spent, we need action, not more reports – especially those without consequences.
Yet while I supported one vote and opposed the other, I am encouraged by both. They show real and growing momentum on both sides of the aisle away from this tragic and endless war.
As the Los Angeles Times reported this morning, “The votes illustrated Congress’ dramatic response to public dismay with the war.” And as CNN’s Dana Bash said, “It was a milestone in the Iraq war debate. For the first time, the vast majority of the President’s fellow Republicans voted to directly challenge his Iraq policy.”
It is no wonder that a broad, bipartisan consensus for change is emerging. We are well into the fourth “surge” of U.S. forces since the start of the war, yet April was one of the deadliest months of the entire war and attacks on our troops show no sign of decreasing.
The Iraqi government has failed to adopt an oil law, a law on de-Baathification, or any further constitutional amendments. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki is accused of sabotaging efforts for peace and stability by firing some of his top law enforcement officials for doing too good of a job combating violent Shiite militias. Conditions are so chaotic that – according to a report this morning by the Chatham House Research Institute, the Iraqi government is on the “verge of becoming a failed state” with “internecine fighting and continual struggle for power” [threatening] “the nation’s very existence in its current form.”
And the U.S. mission grows further and further disconnected from our strategic national interests. Instead of focusing on force protection, hunting down al Qaeda and other terrorists and training the Iraqi military – missions that will make us more secure, help the Iraqi people and reduce our troops’ exposure to the sectarian violence – U.S. forces are patrolling Baghdad streets, extremely vulnerable to snipers, kidnappers and improvised explosive devices.
Our brave forces have done everything asked of them and more. But every day we debate the war, our troops remain in harm’s way.
The overwhelming veto-proof bipartisan majority of the Senate is now on record saying that the status quo is unacceptable. With that reality as a backdrop, this morning we will vote for cloture on Senator Murray’s Sense of the Senate Resolution that will move us to conference on the Emergency Supplemental bill and the important negotiations that will take place there on our future course in Iraq.
I urge all of my colleagues to support this resolution. We all agree that we need to swiftly pass a supplemental bill that fully funds our troops. We all agree that “stay the course” is not an option.
And as we move this debate to conference, the American people deserve to know that the Democrats’ commitment to bring this war to its responsible end has never been stronger. And if enough of our Republican colleagues decide to join with us, even the President of the United States will have to listen.