Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate before voting to invoke cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“After the past eight years, our Armed Forces – the best-trained, most courageous fighting force the world has ever known – has been stretched to the limit. History will remember that during these years, despite tremendous strain, our military accomplished everything asked of them with heroism and success.
“It won’t be easy to rebuild our Armed Forces. It must be a priority of our next president to give them proper rest, proper training and equipment when they are deployed, and proper physical and mental health care when they return from combat. That work will begin on January 20, 2009. But in the meantime, Congress can begin that critical work. We can begin it now by passing the Defense Authorization bill, a sensible, bipartisan bill that will honor our troops and enhance our national security.
“For our men and women in uniform, the Defense Authorization bill:
- gives a 3.9 percent pay raise to our troops and other military personnel. This will mean more money in the pockets of military families struggling to make it from one pay check to the next;
- it will help returning heroes afford a place to live or to go back to school; and
- we invest in the Defense Health Program, which, among other things, prevents the need to raise TRICARE fees, which the Bush Administration has proposed.
“To fight terrorism and protect our national security, the Defense Authorization bill:
- funds international nonproliferation efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, as well as programs that will help us prepare the homeland for chemical or biological attacks;
- we increase funding for the Special Operations Command to train and equip forces that support ongoing military operations;
- we provide funds supporting the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles – which are particularly important initiatives at Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases in Nevada; and
- help reinforce special intelligence capability within the Army and Marine Corps.
“This is a good piece of legislation and an important step towards rebuilding our Armed Forces and protecting the American people. Senators Levin and Warner worked tirelessly to send a bill to the floor that meets the demands of both sides of the aisle, and more importantly, meets the needs of our military. I applaud these two fine Senators and their long service to the committee. This bill would not have gotten this far without their hands-on management and leadership.
“But let’s not forget that the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee is Senator McCain. I understand that the presidential campaign trail takes candidates from both parties away from the Senate at times. But it certainly would have helped move this legislation forward if the ranking Republican, the Republican nominee, had shown the leadership and commitment to this cause by bringing his fellow Republicans on board.
“We now have a chance to do the right thing by coming together to invoke cloture and move toward passing this legislation. I hope that all Senators, Democrats and Republicans, will join together to move forward so that we can honor and properly care for our military families while enhancing our country’s ability to meet the security challenges we face.”