Senate Democrats

Reid: Senate Republicans Owe It To America Not To Block Iraq Debate

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling on Senate Republicans to stop blocking a debate on the single most important issue facing America today: the war in Iraq. President Bush is escalating the war against the bipartisan opposition of Congress, his own military leaders, and the overwhelming majority Americans. The American people deserve to know where every member of Congress stands on escalating the war, and Senate Republicans owe it to the country to allow this debate to begin. The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below. Across America, in town halls and school halls, offices and barber shops, Americans are talking about one thing: President Bush’s plan to escalate the war in Iraq. Will we debate that subject this week in the United States Senate? Republican Senators say no. The Republican leadership says it’s more important to protect President Bush from a vote of no-confidence in the Senate, than it is to ensure our troops have the right strategy to complete the mission in Iraq. On Friday, we learned that the Minority is going to do everything in their power to block an Iraq debate this week. They are so worried a bipartisan majority of Senators might voice their opposition to escalation that these Senators are going to prevent any Iraq debate in the Senate. Their excuse? A feeble claim that they haven’t been guaranteed a vote on alternative amendments and resolutions. . Mr. President, this clam is just not credible. Senate Republicans have rejected three compromises that would have permitted the Senate to vote on the President’s plan: First, we offered to schedule an up or down vote on the McCain/Graham resolution supporting the President’s plan and the Warner/Levin resolution in opposition. That offer was rejected. Second, we offered the Republican leadership up or down votes on these two resolutions as well as two others: the Gregg resolution and a resolution stating simply that the Senate does not support the surge and demands that the troops deploying to Iraq receive the body armor and other equipment they need. That, too, was rejected. Finally, we even offered to hold supermajority votes on the bipartisan Warner resolution and the McCain/Graham resolution that would each have required sixty votes, but like the other proposals, that offer was also rejected. The Republican Leadership can’t take yes for an answer. They have been given all they’ve asked for. It is clear their actions are not driven by getting votes on Republican proposals. They are driven by a desire to provide political cover for President Bush They can’t rubber-stamp the President’s policies in Iraq any more, so they’ve decided to stamp out debate and let the President’s escalation plan proceed unchecked. Mr. President, America deserves better than a filibuster of the President’s flawed plan to add nearly 48,000 additional troops to Iraq. The war in Iraq has taken a great toll on our country. We’ve lost 3,100 American soldiers in Iraq, and seen tens-of-thousands more wounded. The war has strained our military, and depleted our Treasury of nearly $400 billion. Now, President Bush wants to escalate the conflict, and send – according to the CBO – 48,000 more troops to Iraq, at a cost of $27 billion a year. Given these costs alone, it is important that Senators have the opportunity to vote – up or down – on escalation. But it is even more important, given the wide-spread opposition to the President’s plan, both in Congress and in the country. America’s generals do not support escalation. Generals Abizaid and Casey have both testified that they do not believe more troops will bring stability to Iraq. The Iraq Study Group does not support escalation. The bipartisan commission made very different recommendations to President Bush. The American people do not support escalation. Last November, voters made it clear they want a change of course, not more of the same. Now, the President must hear from the Congress. The President must hear from Congress, so he knows he stands in the wrong place, alone. A loud, bipartisan message from this Body will give him another opportunity to listen… to listen and change course to a plan to gives our troops the best chance for success. We are running out of time to find a new way forward in Iraq. Americans and our troops have waited four years for the Senate to get off the sidelines on this issue. They shouldn’t have to wait longer for a new direction in Iraq, just because Republicans want to protect their politics at home. We’ve seen politics in this war before. Politics gave us the “Mission Accomplished” banner. Politics gave us a Vice President who said the insurgency was in its “last throes.” Politics gave us a Defense Secretary who promised America the enemy was just a few “dead-enders” who would be stamped out in days. We’ve had enough politics. For years into this war, what we need is a strategy that will succeed in Iraq. That strategy is not escalation. Last week, America’s intelligence community provided their latest estimate of conditions on the ground in Iraq. The picture they painted was bleak, and it was backed up by events this past week in Iraq. Anyone who pays attention to events on the ground, and reads the unclassified assessment of our intelligence community will quickly realize the President’s strategy has failed, and that there are only non-military solutions to addressing Iraq’s many problems. That’s why the military surge makes no sense. Here are the highlights of the NIE: First, "…even if violence is diminished [in Iraq], … Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this Estimate." Second, Iraq "…has become a self-sustaining inter-sectarian struggle…" and that security in Iraq would continue to deteriorate unless measurable progress can be made in efforts to reverse the conditions that fuel violence. Third, the term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict…" but "does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict…" Fourth, "…the involvement of these outside actors [Iran and Syria and Iraq’s neighbors] is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.” The bottom line is that the NIE points to internal political reconciliation and stepped up leadership from Iraqi political officials as the only way out of this quagmire… not surging U.S. military forces. Military escalation won’t end this conflict that is more “complex” than a civil war. Military escalation won’t make it easier for Iraqi leaders to achieve “political reconciliation.” Military escalation won’t bring an end to Iraq’s internal sectarian struggle. The problems in Iraq are long-term, yet military escalation is a strategy that is short-sighted. This is the message President Bush has heard from the generals, the people, and the Iraq Study group. Now he must hear from Congress. I hope this afternoon my Republican Colleagues will do what is right and allow this important debate to go forward.