Full Committee Markup of Emergency Supplemental Statement from Ranking Member Lewis
Mr. Chairman and colleagues, I rise this morning to express my opposition to this Emergency Supplemental as it is presently written.
My colleagues know that I have the highest level of respect for our Chairman, Mr. Obey. Together, we worked as partners during the 109th Congress, passing Appropriations bills through this Committee and through the House. That work simply would not have occurred were it not for the friendship and trust—the partnership—that we forged. Indeed, this committee is at its best when each of us works together—across party lines—and rises above purely partisan politics.
During the last Congress, I was privileged to serve as Chairman of this great Committee and Mr. Obey was our distinguished ranking member. Today, our roles are reversed and Mr. Obey is now our Chairman. There is no question in my mind that if my friend from Wisconsin were permitted to write this bill on his own, this would be a much better product.
Instead, we are being asked to consider a spending bill that reflects the priorities of Speaker Pelosi and a deeply divided Democratic Caucus. It attempts to bridge these widening divisions 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 harms 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 ties 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 Speaker’s goal is to end the war or withdraw our troops, then that should be addressed in separate legislation. The Speaker cannot have it both ways, pretending on the one hand to support our troops while, on the other hand, undercutting their ability to prosecute 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 successfully complete their mission.
My colleagues, consider carefully the consequences of our actions here today. Passage 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 and also pose 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 great credit, many of my Democrat friends continue to express grave reservations about this approach—and this legislation.
It is also worth noting my concern over what I have heard—but have not yet confirmed—that the Democratic leadership has proposed that this Emergency Supplemental be brought to the House floor under a closed rule, or a modified closed rule. Such a scenario would be unprecedented and leave the minority little choice but to walk away from the tradition of comity that has marked our work on this Committee.
I have spoken with Chairman Obey about this concern and expressed the belief that this bill—and other Committee bills—should be considered in regular order and under an open rule in the longstanding tradition of our committee.
I can assure you that if this bill is brought to the House floor under a closed rule, all bets are off on getting our work done this year. It simply will not happen. I have asked Mr. Obey to carry that message directly to Speaker Pelosi.
Lastly, I would be remiss not to highlight my reservations about the budgetary aspects of this bill that proposes more than $22 billion in emergency spending items that are completely unrelated to the Global War on Terror or legitimate emergencies in the Gulf Coast region.
I ask my colleagues, what does a $25 million bail out for spinach producers, $60 million for the salmon fishing industry, or $5 million for fish breeding have to do with the Global War on Terror?
This legislation also includes authorization language to increase the minimum wage. Again, I ask my friends—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?
Last year, the House passed a clean Supplemental only to have the Senate add $14 billion—let me repeat that—$14 billion—in unrelated spending. The House insisted that these unrelated provisions be removed—and they were. This committee would be better served by sending the President a clean supplemental free of extraneous spending and unrelated legislative provisions.
In short, Mr. Chairman, much of what is included in this bill is completely unrelated to the Global War on Terror and has no place in this bill. Sadly, many items are being designated as emergencies for no other reason than to make more room for additional spending under the fiscal year 2008 caps.
Mr. Chairman, you know that this is not what emergency supplemental spending bills are intended to do. However, I can only assume that you have been asked to carry this legislation by Speaker Pelosi and your leadership.
I ask my colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—to thoughtfully consider the precedent set by this bill. Weigh in your conscience the effects of undermining the authority of the President—and future Presidents—and putting at further risk our men and women in uniform.
While I respect our Chairman, Mr. Obey, and value our continued work together, I cannot support this legislation as it is currently written.