Senate Democrats

Rhetoric Vs. Reality: Responding to Republican Attacks on the Supplemental Appropriations Bill

For the past several weeks, the White House and its Republican allies in the House and Senate have launched a full-scale attack on Congress’s handling of the Fiscal Year 2007 supplemental appropriations bill. Hoping to shift blame for war funding shortfalls, declining military readiness, and a failing strategy in Iraq, Republicans are employing false claims and misleading rhetoric to find ways to vote against a bill that would fund the troops, protect America, and increase chances for success in Iraq. The following fact sheet outlines the most common Republican attacks against the bill and sets the record straight on why President Bush should sign this legislation as soon as it reaches his desk.

RHETORIC: The military needs these funds immediately – failure to pass a supplemental will hurt the readiness of our troops.

  • REALITY: The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that funds are available into July 2007. In a thorough review of Army data and the Defense Department’s existing legal authorities, non-partisan budget experts at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) informed the Congress that the Army could maintain its wartime operations through mid-to-late July by using funds the Army has already been provided and by using their authority to transfer funds from other accounts that would not otherwise be spent until later in the year. (CRS, 3/28/07)
  • REALITY:The Pentagon reports that it can cover war costs through June. The Associated Press recently reported that, “The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June, despite warnings from the White House that troops are being harmed by Congress’s failure to quickly deliver more funds.” (Associated Press, 4/19/07)
  • REALITY: The Bush Administration is responsible for any urgency or shortfall in funding needs; it intentionally underfunded the war costs in its annual budget request. We are now into the fourth year of the war in Iraq; the Administration has the ability to anticipate the annual cost of military operations. But instead of including a request for annual funding needs for the war in the regular appropriations process, the Bush Administration included just $50 billion in its Fiscal Year 2007 budget request for the Iraq war (knowing that we have been spending an average of nearly $9 billion per month) (CRS, 3/14/07). If the Administration hadn’t tried to hide the full cost of the war to avoid congressional and public accountability, they would not need emergency funding today.
  • REALITY: Congress is moving quickly to get this emergency funding bill to the President; we are moving faster than Republican-controlled Congress did last year. As of April 25, the Congress had taken 79 days on the supplemental spending bill. Last year, it took the Republican-led Congress 119 days to send the Fiscal Year 2006 supplemental bill to the President. (CQ Today, 4/11/07)
  • REALITY:George Bush has presided over a catastrophic deterioration in military readiness. The Bush Administration’s mismanagement of the military and its misguided Iraq strategy over the past several years has dangerously overstretched our Armed Forces. Vast segments of the military are not ready as a result of Bush policies, including two-thirds of the Army and nearly 90 percent of the National Guard. This readiness crisis is comparable to the “hollow Army” that developed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Yet, today, the President’s strategy continues to send troops into battle, many without required equipment and training and rest time. (Time, 4/16/07)

RHETORIC: Democrats are withholding funds from our troops to make a political statement about the war.

  • REALITY: The supplemental bill passed by Congress provides full funding for our service men and women; it is the President’s veto that would withhold any funds from our troops.
  • REALITY: Our call for a change of course is not about politics; it is about advancing responsible policies that have the best chance for achieving U.S. objectives in Iraq. The Democratic plan will decrease Iraqi reliance on U.S. troops and push Iraq’s political leaders toward national reconciliation, while continuing to help the Iraqi people, stabilize the country, and protect U.S. interests in the Middle East. This strategy reflects the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is supported by retired generals and the majority of the American people.
  • REALITY: We cannot afford to stay the course behind the Bush Administration’s failed policies and open-ended commitment in Iraq. The current strategy is imposing unsustainable costs on our country and our national security. We have allocated more than $450 billion to the war and lost more than 3,300 American soldiers while nearly 25,000 service men and women have been wounded, many of them gravely. At the same time, our military is being stretched to a breaking point; our moral standing and leadership in the world is deteriorating; our ability to respond to other threats is declining; and threats posed by terrorist organizations are on the rise.
  • REALITY: Congress has the constitutional authority and responsibility to weigh in on U.S. policy in Iraq. Senate Democrats are living up to our obligation to our troops and to the American people by opposing the President’s escalation plan and calling on the Bush Administration to change course in Iraq. For the past four years the Republican-led Senate abdicated its oversight responsibility on Iraq and allowed the Bush Administration to continue to pursue a failed strategy in Iraq. It is time for real oversight and a change of course.

RHETORIC: Democrats are not supporting the troops.

  • REALITY:Supporting our troops means providing them with a strategy for success. The President’s military escalation plan cannot bring success in Iraq. As Generals Casey, Abizaid and Petraeus have acknowledged, the situation in Iraq cannot be won solely by military actions; it requires a political solution. Despite increased U.S. troop levels in Baghdad and a dramatic increase in U.S. casualties, Iraqi politicians are still not making progress on solving their own political problems. Democrats understand this reality and this is why we refuse to ask our armed forces to lead a mission that cannot be won. It is time we take our troops out of Iraq’s civil war and implement our comprehensive strategy for changing course.
  • REALITY: The supplemental legislation passed by Congress provides more funding for our troops. The bill includes over $100 billion for the Department of Defense, which is nearly $4 billion more than the President’s request for our troops. It provides critical funding for vehicles that will help protect U.S. soldiers from roadside bombs ($1.2 billion above the requested amount); $2.1 billion in additional funds for defense health needs, including research and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI); $1.1 billion to address funding shortfalls in military housing; and an additional $1 billion for National Guard equipment needs. The bill also includes $1.8 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide first-class health care to our nation’s veterans, including funds to meet the growing needs of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, improved mental health services, and critical polytrauma and rehabilitative care. The president did not request any of these funds for veterans, but we think it is vital that we meet our obligation to our veterans.
  • REALITY: Democrats have consistently led the effort to ensure that our troops have the funding, equipment, and other resources that they need. After the Bush Administration sent our troops into Iraq without a strategy for victory and without the body armor and other critical equipment they would need on the battlefield, Democrats have led the charge to provide our troops with the training and equipment necessary to carry out their mission as well as the medical care and resources they need when they return home.
  • REALITY: Bush Administration policies are failing our troops. The Administration’s mismanagement of the military and its misguided Iraq strategy have placed unacceptable demands on our soldiers and overstretched our military. Under Bush policies, U.S. service members have been forced to endure repeated deployments, extended tours of duty, and shortened resting and training times between deployments. The Pentagon’s recent announcement that the tours of troops serving in Iraq will be extended by three months is but the latest example of the Administration’s failed military policies.

RHETORIC: Democrats are “defeatist” – they are giving up on achieving success in Iraq.

  • REALITY: Bush Administration management of the war in Iraq over the past four years has diminished the chances for victory in Iraq. From providing too few troops to secure the peace following the 2003 invasion, to its de-Baathification policies, its decision to disband the Iraqi army, and its failure to prevent the rise of insurgent groups and sectarian militias, the Bush Administration’s policies squandered our chances for victory in Iraq. No number of U.S. troops can resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts or reconcile its ethnic and sectarian divisions.
  • REALITY: A political, economic and diplomatic surge – not a military escalation – is the key to achieving progress in Iraq. It is no longer the job of the military to win the war in Iraq. Our troops have performed heroically and achieved U.S. military objectives. What we need now is a diplomatic, economic and political offensive to stabilize the country and to pressure Iraqi leaders to move toward national reconciliation.
  • REALITY: By advancing a comprehensive strategy to change the course in Iraq, begin a phased redeployment of our troops, and hold the Iraqi government accountable, Democrats are maximizing our chances for achieving U.S. objectives in Iraq. We refuse to stand behind the President’s failed plan. Instead, we believe that our comprehensive plan is the best way to meet U.S. goals in Iraq – to establish an Iraq that can “govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.”

RHETORIC: Democrats are loading the bill with non-emergency provisions and pork-barrel spending.

  • REALITY: In the previous four years, the President and Republican-led Congress have included funds for non-war-related emergency needs in emergency supplemental appropriations bills.
  • REALITY: In his Fiscal Year 2007 supplemental request, the President included other essential non-war related funding. The White House request for this year’s supplemental included funds not related to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funds for Gulf Coast recovery, Kosovo debt relief, salaries for U.S. Marshalls, funds for the Bureau of Prisons, Department of State programs in Lebanon, global disease control efforts, funding for educational and cultural exchanges and assistance to refugees in Burundi, among other initiatives.
  • REALITY: The additional funds included by Congress are for emergency national security and domestic needs. The funding provided beyond the President’s request address critical emergency needs, including funding to protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq from roadside bombs; address urgent medical care needs of returning service members; meet military housing needs; enhance U.S. military operations in Afghanistan; fill gaps in homeland security; provide domestic disaster assistance; and protect against a global flu pandemic. The Senate bill also includes funds to cover critical shortfalls in the State Children’s Health Insurance program and provide low income energy assistance.
  • REALITY: Meeting the needs of our troops and veterans is an urgent priority. The Senate bill includes more than $4 billion in additional funds to provide for the needs of our soldiers and veterans, which the President failed to include in his request to Congress. It would provide our troops with body armor and specialized armored vehicles to better-protect against roadside bombs; address critical shortfalls in military and veterans’ health needs; and put an end to the neglect at Walter Reed and other military and veterans’ care facilities across the country. We believe it is our moral obligation to provide first-rate support to our troops on the battlefield and first-rate care to our returning veterans. Last week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson acknowledged that the VA can put the extra funds in the supplemental to good use:

    · Senator Murray: “And the additional money that is in the supplemental for poly-trauma care and other issues for health care for our veterans, I assume you would be supportive of that as well?”

    · Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson: “We can use it, yes ma’am.” (Senate Appropriations Hearing, 4/12/07)

RHETORIC: Democrats are playing into the hands of al-Qaeda and undermining U.S. national security interests and stability in the Middle East.

  • REALITY: Our plan would maintain U.S. forces in Iraq to continue our efforts to train and equip the Iraqi security forces; to protect U.S. and coalition personnel; and to conduct counter-terrorism operations in Iraq.
  • REALITY: Phased redeployment would provide us with the best chance to address the growing threats in the fight against global terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan. Our plan will enable us to direct much-needed resources and focus on the broader battle against terrorist threats, including the terrorist networks that attacked us on 9/11.
  • REALITY: The Bush Administration’s strategy in Iraq is compromising U.S. efforts in the war on terror. National Intelligence Director John McConnell testified in February that a successful future attack against the United States would more likely be planned and executed by al Qaeda terrorists operating in Pakistan, not Iraq. (Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, 2/27/07)
  • REALITY: Continuing on the present course poses a significant threat to U.S. national security interests and regional stability. The current demands being placed on our military by Bush Administration policies have left our country without a strategic reserve, weakening America’s ability to deter and respond to other global threats. At the same time, staying the course in Iraq is threatening the balance of power in the Middle East, empowering radical ideologies, and undermining America’s leadership and influence in the world.

RHETORIC: Democrats are micromanaging the war and our military leaders by imposing withdrawal dates.

  • REALITY: The Bush Administration has insisted on its escalation strategy against the recommendations of top military leaders. Generals Abizaid, Powell, and Casey, among others, have voiced opposition to the President’s military escalation in Iraq. The President’s escalation strategy was designed in large part by neo-conservatives at a Washington, D.C. think tank (the American Enterprise Institute), not by the military’s commanders on the ground.
  • REALITY: Our plan includes a goal, not a mandate, of redeploying most of U.S. forces by March 31, 2008.
  • REALITY: Benchmarks have proven ineffective for holding the Iraqi government accountable; timelines are necessary to move toward national reconciliation. Time and again, benchmarks established by the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government have come and gone without progress and without consequences. Iraqi commitments to approve new elections laws; schedule and hold provincial elections; conduct a constitutional review; hold a referendum on constitutional amendments – just to name a few – have not been fulfilled.We believe that timelines are necessary to incentivize the Iraqi government to take meaningful action.

RHETORIC: The President’s plan is beginning to work; Democrats need to give it a chance.

  • REALITY: The situation on the ground tells a different story: violence is on the rise in Iraq. The past few months have been among the deadliest for U.S. troops: 79 U.S. soldiers were killed in February, 82 in March, and 85 already so far this month. In Baghdad, where the military escalation has been concentrated, casualties for U.S. soldiers have risen 21 percent since the start of the escalation. According to the Pentagon, the number of dead and wounded nationwide, including civilians and members of Iraqi and American security forces, rose 10 percent between February and March. (Brookings Institute, Iraq Index, 4/16/07; Associated Press, 4/14/07; New York Times, 4/12/07)
  • REALITY: The surge has failed to slow sectarian violence or alleviate Iraq’s humanitarian crisis. In a report released today, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) found that civilian casualties remained high between January 1 and March 31, and were primarily concentrated in Baghdad and surrounding areas. According to the study, “While government officials claimed an initial drop in the number of killings in the latter half of February following the launch of the Baghdad security plan, the number of reported casualties rose again in March.” The report did not contain overall casualty figures because the Iraqi government refused to release them, however, the study stated that, “In February and March, sectarian violence claimed the lives of large numbers of civilians, including women and children, both in Shia and Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad.” Similarly, the Red Cross recently reported that the humanitarian situation in Iraq is “steadily worsening and it is affecting, directly or indirectly, all Iraqis.”(Associated Press, 4/25/07; Reuters, 4/11/07)
  • REALITY: April is on track to be one of the deadliest months since the start of the war. With 85 U.S. soldiers killed so far this month (as of April 24), April could turn out to be the worst month for American military casualties. This week, a suicide truck bombing at a military outpost near Baquba killed nine U.S. soldiers and wounded 20 others, making it the “one of the deadliest single ground attacks on U.S. forces since the start of the war in Iraq.” Recent violence suggests a similar trend for civilian casualties. After officials pointed to a slight decrease in sectarian violence in Baghdad since the start of the escalation on February 14, violence has escalated dramatically in April. Last week, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed at least 160 Iraqis and wounded many more. Earlier this month, a suicide bomb went off inside the Iraqi parliament, within heavily-fortified Green Zone while another blast collapsed a key bridge across the Tigris. (Boston Globe, 4/24/07; Washington Post, 4/24/07; Associated Press, 4/18/07; Washington Post, 4/18/07)
  • REALITY: This is the third troop escalation that the President has ordered; it is more likely not to meet the lofty expectations he has set for it largely for the same reasons that earlier military escalations have not produced long-term results. Without a comprehensive political and diplomatic strategy to take advantage of any reduction in violence that military operations may provide, the Bush strategy will not be able to produce any long-term progress toward national reconciliation or securing regional support for the Iraqi government.