Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
“Yesterday the Senate voted once again on legislation with real teeth that would protect our troops and prevent the President from irresponsibly overburdening them. This was not a vote of symbolism. It was binding national policy. Yet once again, the Republican minority filibustered the Webb amendment.
“But, don’t take my word for it. Here were the headlines from around the country: From the Wall Street Journal: ‘Republicans Block Troop Measure.’ From Reuters: ‘Senate Republicans block Iraq bill.’ And from the Associated Press: ‘GOP Opposes Bill Regulating Combat Tours.’
“I understand that the Senate is a deliberative body that was created to prevent haste and promote consensus. But what we are seeing here is a far cry from deliberation. It is outright obstruction. That’s what we saw yesterday, and except for a courageous few, that’s what we continue to see from the Republican minority on the Iraq war.
“Countless Republicans have said the right things back in their home states: That we must support our troops, that we must protect our national security, that we must change course in Iraq. But here in Washington, they have consistently voted the wrong way. Back home they assert their independence, but in Washington they walk in lockstep with the President and continue to support his failed policies.
“My Republican colleagues know that I have a great deal of respect for them. On other issues, we have made real bipartisan progress this year. We can all take pride in passing a bill that will provide health care to millions of children from low-income families. We should be proud that we worked together to pass a bill to unlock the hope of stem cell research, that we passed a comprehensive energy bill to tackle high prices and global warming, and that we just passed the largest expansion of student financial aid since the GI Bill.
“I have tried to approach the war debate in that same spirit of bipartisanship. I have reached out to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle time and time again – but again, with the exception of a courageous few, those efforts have been rebuffed. And that is their right. There is nothing the Democratic majority can do to force our Republican colleagues to vote the responsible way.
“But as long as young Americans continue to fight and die in another nation’s civil war, with no end in sight, we will keep fighting to responsibly bring them home, rebuild our military, and return our focus to fighting a real war on terror against Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network. The President and his Republican supporters here in the Senate say that we should just continue the current policy – that things are going O.K. – that we should just let things keep going how they are.
“Tell that to the 20,000 Iraqis who flee their country every month, left homeless and hopeless. Tell that to the families of innocent civilians – as many as 1 million — who have been killed in this war. Tell that to the 2 million refugees. Tell the families of the 3,800 dead American troops that things are going O.K. Tell the families of the countless thousands who have been grievously wounded that all this war needs is more patience and more time. Tell our troops who have served us so bravely without proper equipment or rest that now is not the time to vote against this war.
“Today, we have another chance to forge a responsible and binding path out of Iraq. The amendment before us now is the best path for the United States and for the people of Iraq. It changes our fundamental mission away from policing a civil war, reduces our large combat footprint, and focuses on those missions which are in the U.S. national security interests. It uses Congress’s constitutional powers to limit funding after June 1st of next year – well into the sixth year of the war – to counter-terrorism, force protection, and the targeted training of Iraqi forces.
“This Amendment recognizes we have interests in Iraq, but it does not facilitate the open-ended role of US forces in a civil war. I urge my colleagues to support this responsible legislation. It is one more chance for the Senate to chart a new way forward in Iraq. President Kennedy once said, ‘A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.’
“If we send this amendment to the President, those who voted for it can return home, look their constituents in the eye, and tell them that they had the courage to finally do what is right for our troops and our country.”