Senate Democrats

Reid: Senate Will Have Opportunity To Speak On Change Of Course In Iraq

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today, announcing the introduction of two amendments to the Water Resources Development Act that would allow Senators the opportunity to vote to change course in the war in Iraq, while also expediting Senate consideration of the Iraq war supplemental:

Two weeks ago President Bush vetoed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, a bill to fully fund the troops in Iraq and change the course of that conflict. Late last week, the House sent a new bill to the Senate, and we received that legislation within the past hour. So the ball is now in our court, the Senate’s court.

I’ve had a number of conversations with Senator McConnell the last several days. I spoke to him earlier today at some length.  Democrats and Republicans agree the Senate needs to get a bill into conference as soon as possible, and we need to work together to make that happen.

As important as it is to get a bill to conference, we’ve not, on this side of the aisle, lost sight of the fact that the American people have concluded the President’s Iraq policy has failed and are demanding a new way forward on behalf of the American people.

In an effort to ensure quick Senate passage of our conference vehicle later this week, as well as to give Senators an opportunity to express their views on the President’s Iraq policy, I will offer two important amendments to the Water Resources Development Act.

The first amendment is Feingold-Reid.  This amendment would immediately transition the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq to force protection, training Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism with a goal to safely redeploy troops not conducting these missions by March 31 of next year. The Feingold amendment enforces this timeline by prohibiting the funding of troops in Iraq not engaged in these three missions starting April 1, 2008.

I will also offer Levin-Reid, which is consistent with the bipartisan legislation approved by Congress with one major change – it permits the President to waive the timeline for redeployments. It has in it some things that have received broad support from members on both sides of the aisle – ensuring that our troops are ready when they are sent into battle, limiting extended and repeated deployments of our troops, and holding the Iraqis accountable with real consequences.

We’ll have votes on these two amendments no later than Wednesday morning. I will work with the distinguished Republican leader to see when that can happen.

These votes represent an opportunity for the Senate to shape the important conference we hope will begin immediately upon passage later this week of the Senate version of the Supplemental. There’s probably no end of amendments that could be offered. But on our side of the aisle, Democrats believe that we should do something very, very close to what was done in the bill that we sent to the President that he vetoed. And basically, that’s what we have here.  But in recognition that the President has exercised his veto power of a bill to fund our troops and is prepared to do so again, we give the President the ability to waive the timelines we have in the legislation.

I think it’s very important to understand that transitioning in this mission to fighting Al Qaeda is part of the recognition of what we and the American people feel is important. At present, Americans troops are over there protecting the Shias, protecting the Sunnis, the Kurds, and at all times, all these different elements are shooting at the Americans.

We need to change the course in Iraq, transition the military mission there, rebuild our military power and redirect our efforts toward more effectively fighting Al Qaeda.  The amendments I have offered this afternoon will give Senators an opportunity on the eve of our upcoming conference to vote on whether they agree with this need to change course to make America more secure.