Senate Democrats

Reid: President Should Listen to Will of People, Sign Bill to Change Course in Iraq

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Harry of Nevada Reid made the following statement on the floor today.

Mr. President, last Thursday a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed H.R. 1591, the Fiscal Year 2007 Emergency Supplemental Funding conference report.

This bill will be sent to the President’s desk tomorrow. I strongly encourage him to set aside his veto threats and sign this bill.

Our conference report honors and provides for our courageous men and women in uniform.

It addresses the emergencies Americans face at home while the war in Iraq rages.

And it makes our country more secure by charting a new course in Iraq so that we can return our focus to the global challenges that lie ahead.

This is a good and responsible bill. It will begin the long process of leading us out of a war that has cost us so many American lives and so much treasure.

It not only represents the will of Congress — but also the will of the American people who call for a new course – and the expertise of military experts who tell us this war can only be won politically, not militarily.

Regrettably, President Bush declared he would veto this bill even before Congress had completed action on it. As conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate, that position has become increasingly isolated.

In the face of this continued deterioration, this Congress stands with firm resolve. We ask the President to listen to Congress – to the American people – and to his own military experts.

President Bush requested $91.5 billion for continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We provided every penny of that request and more.

We provided funds for emergencies here at home –such as rebuilding the Gulf Coast, recovering from agricultural disasters, repairing gaps in homeland security, and keeping children healthy and insured.

And most importantly, we provided a way forward to end the war in Iraq responsibly.

This way forward is consistent with what our military leaders are telling us, including General Petraeus — who repeated again last week that this war can only be won politically, not militarily. Our plan:

  • Immediately transitions the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war
  • Begins the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007 with a goal of removing all combat forces by April 1, 2008
  • Imposes tangible, measurable and achievable benchmarks on the Iraqi government;
  • Launches the kind of diplomatic, economic and political offensive that the president’s strategy lacks;
  • And rebuilds our overburdened military.

Today we renew our call to President Bush:

There is still time to listen.

There is still time to come to grips with the facts on the streets of Baghdad and throughout Iraq.

There is still time to sign this bill and change course in Iraq.

In just the four days since we passed the conference report, new facts have come to light that make our call for a new direction even more urgent:

This weekend the U.S. death toll in Iraq passed 100 for April — making it the deadliest month of the year and one of the deadliest of the entire war.

That bears repeating: despite the President’s claims of progress – this has been one of the deadliest months of this four year war.

Also this weekend, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released his quarterly report that paints a dispiriting picture of our $20 billion rebuilding efforts.

The report concludes that our rebuilding efforts are falling far short of their targets. As a result, after more than fours years of these efforts, Iraq is – quote — “plagued by power outages, inadequate oil production, and shortages of clean water and health care.”

The report tells us that despite spending more than three quarters of our allocated funds to increase electricity production, Iraq’s power grid now produces less electricity than before the invasion –

— With Baghdad averaging just 6.5 hours of electricity per day, down from almost 24 hours before the war.

The report tells us that despite spending nearly 2 billion American dollars, our efforts to provide Iraqis with clean drinking water are falling miserably short.

And the report tells us that oil production – a critical component of any future stable Iraq economy – is still off target levels as well.

President Bush continues to ask for our patience and continues to boast of progress. But this report gives us no reason to believe that conditions for the Iraqi people are improving any more than they are for our troops.

This morning the Washington Post reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is behind the removal and disruption of duty of some of the Iraqi army and police force’s top law enforcement officials –

— And the apparent reason for their dismissal — they were doing too good a job of combating violent Shiite militias.

This has – quote – “angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals –”

And it is yet another reason for us to seriously question whether the Iraqi government has the ability or even desire to make the political compromises that are so essential to ending this conflict.

Finally this weekend, the Portland, Maine Press Herald published an editorial.

They wrote – quote – “It is time to bring our troops home from Iraq. This stand represents a shift in the newspaper’s editorial position. Until now, we have supported the military mission in Iraq, though at time we have been harshly critical of President Bush in his role as commander in chief. Now, it is our opinion that major U.S. military operations should cease…”

Mr. President, it seems as though every day new facts emerge that give us ever greater insight into the astonishing disaster unfolding in Iraq.

In just four days since the Senate passed the supplemental conference report, the four grim new facts I just mentioned have emerged – and this is only the latest.

If the President wonders why the American people have lost patience, it is because the news out of Iraq grows worse by the day.

When we send the supplemental conference report to President Bush tomorrow, we ask that he take some time to reflect on that somber fact.

We ask him again to listen to the American people and his own military experts.

We ask that he finally summon the courage to admit his mistakes and take the steps we propose to begin to heal the grave wounds he has caused.

This bill gives him a path forward. We ask him to follow it.