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Minority Views Submitted by Mr. Lewis


, Mar 20 -

 

There is no question that if Chairman Obey was permitted to write this bill on his own, it would be a much better product.  Instead, the House is being asked to consider a spending bill that reflects the priorities of Speaker Pelosi and a deeply divided Democratic Caucus.  If attempts to bridge these widening division over the War in Iraq by delivering billions of dollars in unrelated and unauthorized spending under an emergency designation.

 

This legislation ought to focus on our troops.  It ought to focus on providing those in harm’s way with the resources they need to complete their mission successfully.  It ought to respect—not micromanage—our combatant commanders in whom we place the ultimate responsibility of prosecuting military actions.  

 

Instead, this legislation continues the majority’s “slow bleed” strategy by tying the hands of our Commander-in-Chief during a time of war; places military decisions in the hands of politicians; and attempts to buy votes for its passage—on the left and on the right—by literally promising something to everyone.

 

If the majority’s goal is to end the war or withdraw our troops, then that should be addressed in separate legislation.  The majority cannot have it both ways, pretending on the one hand to support our troops while, on the other hand, undercutting their ability to complete their mission.

Men and women of good conscience can disagree about the war in Iraq .  But on one thing we must all agree—our men and women in uniform must continue to receive our unqualified support and the resources they need to complete their mission successfully.

 

All Members should consider carefully the consequences of their actions regarding this legislation.  Enactment of this measure in its present form will signal to insurgents and terrorists that the United States doesn’t have the political will to continue supporting this fledgling Iraqi democracy. 

 

Al Qaeda and other enemies of freedom will simply lay in wait until our troops are withdrawn.  And, with the collapse of this fragile democracy, our efforts—and the sacrifices of our troops—will have been for nothing. 

 

The fight in Iraq is also critical to the future of Israel .  A failure in Iraq will further destabilize the region, posing a direct threat to Israel .  We must not let that occur to our friend and ally.

 

There should be no carrot big enough to force Members into choosing between their principled support of our troops in the field and funding for the many unrelated, parochial items sprinkled throughout this bill. 

 

Republican Members of this committee—and in the House—are simply not going to abandon our principles—and troops in the field—for the promise of pork back in our districts.   To their credit, many Democrats continue to express grave reservations about this approach—and this legislation. 

 

Last year, Congress sent to the President a clean supplemental spending bill for our troops.  This Congress would be better served by sending a clean bill, free of extraneous spending and unrelated legislative provisions, in order to continue funding for our troops who stand in harm’s way.  However, as a result of the extraneous spending included in this bill, as well as the unrelated authorizing provisions, it will take months to complete work on a final bill that the President can sign.  In the meantime, our troops will face the uncertainty that stems from not understanding whether the majority party is committed to providing the resources necessary in a timely fashion for them to complete their mission successfully.

 

Lewis-Young Amendment

During full Committee consideration of this measure, Mr. Lewis and Mr. Young offered an amendment to strike Sections 1901-1904 and insert the text of H.R. 511.  In addition to striking the provisions that tie the President’s hands in an unprecedented and likely unconstitutional manner, the amendment pledged the faithful support of Congress to the members of the United States Armed Forces serving in harm’s way by specifically stating that “Congress will not cut off or restrict funding for units and members of the Armed Forces that the Commander-in-Chief has deployed in harm’s way in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.”  Sadly, Committee Democrats voted in lockstep (37-27) to reject the Lewis-Young language, replacing it with feel good platitudes in lieu of an iron-clad guarantee of financial support.  Their vote creates the dangerous precedent of tying the President’s hands during a time of war, and sends an ominous message to our men and women in uniform.

 

Young Amendment

On behalf of those Members of Congress who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, Mr. Young offered an amendment that would have funded the immediate withdrawal of our military forces from Iraq .  The amendment was defeated unanimously (0-64), drawing the votes of several members who have long advocated for this immediate withdrawal.   It is unfathomable that the majority, on one hand, unanimously rejects the immediate withdrawal of troops; proceeds to vote against a declaration that Congress will not cut off funding for those same troops; and then supports legislation that requires troops to begin withdrawing by the arbitrary deadline of March 1, 2008 at the latest.  Members of the majority party are mandating a withdrawal from Iraq using a legislative sleight of hand, but won’t admit to it with a direct vote on the matter. 

 

 

Constitutional Impact

While the bill proposes egregious micromanagement with respect to Iraq , there is an even more disturbing consequence with respect to its impact on the U.S. Constitution.  The delineation of powers between the Executive and the Legislative branches is quite clear—and is even reflected in an amendment adopted by the Appropriations Committee during consideration of the bill.  Specifically, that amendment identifies the President as Commander-in-Chief.  Sadly, the majority included text in the bill that restricts the manner in which the Commander-in-Chief is permitted to deploy the Armed Forces of the United States .  If Congress wishes to end military operations in Iraq , its only constitutional recourse is to cut off funding—a notion the Appropriations Committee unanimously rejected.

 

Extraneous Spending

 To make matters worse, this bill proposes more than $22 billion in emergency spending items that are completely unrelated to the troops, veterans’ health, and Iraq .  The majority has gone on a shopping spree, including many items designated as emergencies, to entice the support of Members while simultaneously making room for additional spending under the fiscal year 2008 spending caps. 

 

 What does a $25 million bail out for spinach producers, $60 million for the salmon fishing industry, or $5 million for aquaculture have to do with our troops, veterans’ health or Iraq , as the short title of the bill suggests.

 

The bill includes nearly $1 billion in emergency funding for activities related to avian influenza.  This is a fiscally irresponsible attempt to off-load $1 billion in spending that ought to be considered in the regular FY08 appropriations process.  In FY06, Congress provided $5.6 billion in emergency funding for this purpose, and included additional funding in the FY07 omnibus appropriations bill.  Today, half-way through FY07, more than $2.6 billion of that money remains unspent.  The Department of Health and Human Services requested the funds this bill designates as an emergency in the FY08 Labor-HHS bill—without an emergency designation. 

 

The bill also includes $750 million for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program—a mandatory program under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  If there is a shortfall in some states that are unable to live within their means, it should be addressed by the committee of jurisdiction—not in a supplemental spending bill that purports to be for our troops, veterans’ health, and Iraq .

  

Additionally, the supplemental includes over $7 billion for programs under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, almost $3.5 billion over the President's request.  While almost two-thirds is for disaster relief, the remaining $2.5 billion was added to address so-called FY07 emergencies.  Many of the majority's funding increases are for worthy and important items such as nuclear and explosive detection systems and additional aircraft for the northern border.  However, they should in no way be considered an FY07 emergency.  In every instance these items could, and should be, addressed in the regular FY08 appropriations process.  By including them as an FY07 emergency, the majority is simply trying to look strong on security and buy down requirements to free up funds in FY08 for additional spending.  As we have demonstrated through our past action, while we certainly support Homeland Security spending, we support such spending within the confines of the Budget Resolution without the emergency designation when no true emergency exists.

 

The agriculture-related provisions in the supplemental, which are far too numerous and costly to mention individually, were developed without any opportunity for input from the Ranking Minority Member nor from any of the other Republican Members of the Agriculture Subcommittee.  Some of the more egregious examples include $5 million for aquaculture and $25 million for spinach producers.  Clearly, this type of spending does not have a place in a wartime emergency supplemental bill. 

Furthermore, this legislation includes authorization language to increase the minimum wage.  Again, why can’t the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate meet in open conference to resolve the differences between these two bills?  What place has this provision in a wartime supplemental?  Quite simply, it is included at the behest of the Democrat leadership for no other reason than to act as a sweetener, to appeal to those who, for varying reasons, believe the Iraq policy included in this spending bill is misguided and wrong.

 

Lastly, the bill includes an entire title on contracting “reform.”  To our knowledge, there is no crisis in contracting—nothing that would suggest that this legislation is an emergency.  Perhaps the reforms are necessary, perhaps not.  That is a question better addressed by the authorizing committees of jurisdiction rather than the Appropriations Committee.  What is certain is that this issue ought to be considered in regular order, not by “airdropping” it into this supplemental spending bill. 

 

Conclusion

It is clear that Chairman Obey has been asked to carry egregious spending and legislative provisions by Speaker Pelosi and the majority leadership without regard for the constitutional prerogatives of the Commander-in-Chief, without regard for the strategic and tactical expertise of our combatant commanders in the field, and without regard for the morale of our troops who faithfully execute their duly authorized mission.  It is in the best interest of our troops to send a clean bill to the President—a bill that provides the financial resources necessary for our troops and for our veterans.  The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto this legislation, a decision that we in the minority strongly endorse.