Lewis Floor Statement on the FY 2009 War Supplemental Bill
Apr 12, 2011
Statement of Ranking Member Jerry Lewis
FY09 Emergency Supplemental
May 14, 2009
Mr. Speaker, as Members of the Appropriations Committee began the process of writing this legislation, I was hopeful that the House would return to its traditional approach to considering appropriations bills under an open rule on the House floor. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.
There are Members of both political parties who have thoughtful and well-intentioned amendments that ought to receive the consideration of the full House. An open rule would ensure that each and every Member has the right—and the opportunity—to make a good bill even better. But Members on both sides are once again being denied this precious right.
There is one exception to this rule, however. To cover itself politically on a highly sensitive national security issue, the majority leadership has included an amendment offered by Chairman Obey that is self-executed into the rule on this bill. However, the Obey amendment only pays lip service to protecting our citizens from the release of known terrorists from Guantanamo into the United States.
Mr. Wolf—who is perhaps the most knowledgeable Member of the House on this issue—offered an amendment at the full Appropriations Committee last week which was defeated on a straight party-line vote. Yesterday, Mr. Wolf testified on his amendment at the Rules Committee and he was denied the opportunity to even offer his amendment today on the floor.
I don’t say this lightly but on this issue the majority leadership of the House appears to be more sensitive to the rights of known terrorists than the rights of duly elected Members of this body. What a shameful exercise this has become.
House Members were initially led to believe that this legislation would be kept at the President’s request level of $84 billion to fund only the critical needs of the Global War on Terrorism. As presented today, however, this legislation has grown to $96.7 billion since it was submitted to Congress five weeks ago.
The Members know that we face many crises around the world deserving our attention and thoughtful deliberation. It was President Kennedy who a generation ago reminded us that, when written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters: one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
If there is any doubt about what we are doing, let us all be mindful that this Supplemental provides the necessary resources for our soldiers and civilians to wage a successful battle on multiple fronts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We know that the Taliban is now increasingly emboldened and the situation on the ground in Pakistan is, at best, fragile.
Closer to our shores, the potential closure of Guantanamo has become a symbol of best intentions colliding head-on with political reality. Chairman Obey’s decision to withhold funding for Guantanamo is the clearest indication to date that the Obama Administration still has no plausible plan to deal with this complex national security issue.
The President owes it to the American people—and this Congress—to provide a detailed plan for the potential relocation of detainees prior to any funds being appropriated for this purpose and prior to any detainees being transferred to our shores.
As presently written, this legislation does absolutely nothing to prevent the release of detainees from Guantanamo into the United States—into our neighborhoods and communities—after October 1st of this year. These detainees—many of them well-know terrorist figures—would be released with no security risk assessment or even the prior notification or Congress.
Congressman Wolf and Congressman Tiahrt each had amendments addressing this critical national security issue and both were denied the opportunity to offer their amendments today. As a result, it’s now only a matter of time before known terrorists will be brought to the United States on a permanent basis. Today, it is less clear—not more clear—what rights they will be afforded when they arrive and under what judicial system they will be tried.
The insistence of the majority leadership to consider this legislation under a closed rule is disappointing because the bulk of this emergency supplemental was put together with bipartisan cooperation. It’s one of the rare instances in recent times that Republicans and Democrats have largely set aside partisan differences to do what is in the best interest of our country and its people.
I am deeply concerned about legitimate national security questions taking a backseat to political partisanship. But we must pass this legislation—even in its presently flawed form—to ensure that funds continue to flow to support our efforts to bring peace and stability around the world. I urge an “aye” vote and reserve the balance of my time.