What our locals said about the Iraq spending bill

The Iraq Emergency Supplemental bill brokered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — which predicates nearly $100 billion in money for the war on a timetable for a 2008 pullout — was passed by the House today on a 218-212-1 vote. The “1” was Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who voted “present” and explained he could neither fully support nor fully oppose the additional war spending in good conscience.

As expected, among the 14 Democrats who crossed the aisle to vote against the bill were Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Rep. Barbara Lee, D-0akland, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who felt the bill doesn’t pull our troops out of Iraq fast enough. On Thursday they’d struck a deal with Pelosi, delivering her about 10 votes from progressives who’d been undecided about what to do, in exchange for their own ability to stand on principle and oppose the bill.

It appears the margin they provided was crucial — in a 435-member House, 218 votes is the bare minimum needed for passage. The National Journal’s CongressDaily reported today that Lee, Woolsey and Out of Iraq Caucus Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, got a standing ovation in the Democratic caucus meeting before Friday’s vote, spurred by Pelosi’s praise of their actions.

To read what Stark and others said about their votes today, look after the jump…

Stark said:

pete-stark.jpg“Madam Speaker, today’s vote is very difficult for me.

“I support the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

“The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act is a significant improvement over the President’s failed Iraq policies. For years, Bush has sent our troops into harms way without the proper equipment. Today’s legislation aims to hold the Administration accountable for its own readiness standards — and for the benchmarks President Bush himself proposed for Iraqi government performance. This bill also goes farther toward providing an actual end date for this war than any other legislation that has reached the House floor.

“I applaud Speaker Pelosi, Jack Murtha and Dave Obey for this significant achievement. I wish I could support my Speaker today and vote with the overwhelming majority of my Democratic colleagues. But, I can’t vote ‘Yes.’

“I ran for Congress because of my strong opposition to our government’s unyielding commitment to the Vietnam War. I didn’t think it made sense for American men and women to die for the half-truths of the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. Today, I don’t think it makes any more sense for lives to be lost for the outright lies of the Bush regime.

“I voted against the original resolution authorizing the President to take military action against Iraq. At the time, I said I didn’t trust this president and his advisers.

“During the war’s four long years, nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. On the contrary, the Bush Administration has repeatedly misled the American people about Iraq. They lied to Congress about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, about the cost and length of the war, and about meeting arbitrary benchmarks.

“Their goalposts keep moving. The amount of money they requested for this supplemental alone is nearly twice the amount they initially projected the war would cost in its entirety.

“Throughout my career in Congress, I’ve voted against defense spending and against war. Building new weapons systems and waging war doesn’t solve problems. If the last four years are any indication, it actually makes them worse.

“The longer we stay in Iraq, the higher the cost of this senseless war. Unless we withdraw immediately, the Shiite-Sunni civil war will continue taking the lives of additional American troops and Iraqi civilians. Education, health care, and other domestic needs will go under-funded in America while additional billions are spent in Iraq. And our international allies will further doubt our actions and intentions around the world.

“Despite my utmost respect for my colleagues who crafted this bill, I can’t in good conscience vote to continue this war. Nor, however, can I vote ‘No’ and join those who think today’s legislation goes too far toward withdrawal.

“That’s why I’m making the difficult decision to vote ‘present.’ My vote should be interpreted as opposing the war’s continuation while permitting this Congress — under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership — to deliver a strong message to President Bush that his blank check to wage war has been canceled.

“I urge my colleagues to vote their consciences and help end the war in Iraq.”

Lee said:

lee3.jpg“As we begin the fifth year of the occupation of Iraq, it is clear that the President has staked his legacy on an unnecessary war that his administration has botched at every turn. By refusing to take responsibility for their failed policy in Iraq, the administration has effectively forced Congress to intervene to bring it to a responsible end.

“Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Obey, Jim Clyburn and the Democratic leadership deserve credit for recognizing this and for doing something that the Republican Congress refused to do for the last four years, namely to confront the Bush administration over their failed policy in Iraq and to commit to bringing that policy to a responsible end. That is a very important step.

“As someone who opposed this war from the beginning, I have voted against every single penny for this war and found myself today in the difficult position of having to choose between voting against funding for the war or for establishing timelines to end it.

“While as a matter of conscience I cast my vote against the funding, I hope that this passage of this bill marks the beginning of the end of the Iraq war, but the real fight still lies ahead. Congress will continue to have to confront the issue of this war and occupation, and I am committed to continuing to push to fully fund the safe withdrawal of our troops from Iraq at the earliest practicable date and for timelines for withdrawal that are backed up by the appropriations power that the Constitution grants to Congress.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, voted for the bill and said:

miller.jpg“Today marks a major step in the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq. There are many steps yet to come to end this tragic war, but none of those steps would be possible without the vote we cast today.

“Congress has two choices. To continue to hand the President a blank check to further the senseless and costly war in Iraq, or to send a unified and clear message that the Congress and the American people want American troops to come home, to receive the proper medical and psychological care that they need and deserve, and to restore our military readiness so they are prepared to protect our country.

“With this bill, Democrats in Congress are taking a stand against the President on behalf of our soldiers and the American people. Our bill protects the troops on the battlefield and at home, requires accountability from the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government, and sets a responsible timeline for a phased redeployment of U.S. troops — with a date certain, by the end of August 2008, at the latest, for U.S. combat troops to be redeployed from Iraq.

“As American soldiers begin their fifth year of the war in Iraq, we confront the tragic fact that the Bush Administration’s preparation, planning, and execution of this war have not kept faith with the enormous sacrifices our men and women in uniform and their families have made.

“This bill provides further evidence that the new Democratic majority in Congress understands the frustrations and hopes of the American people and that we can and will respond with responsible legislation to take our country in a new direction.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, voted for the bill and said:

lantos.jpg“Today, the House took an important step toward ending the war in Iraq. The passage of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act clearly demonstrates that the Democratic Congress will no longer hand this Administration a blank check to pursue its stay-the-course strategy in Iraq.

“With close to 20,000 of our neighbors, friends and family members from California in harm’s way right now, Democrats in Congress made a statement today that we will not leave them to referee a raging civil war. This legislation not only sets specific dates for de-escalation, it requires Iraqis to take control of their own country and meet basic requirements for good governance.

“I strongly supported this legislation, but I believe we must go even further. Conscience demands we consider not only how and when our troops come home, but what we leave behind in Iraq. To that end, this week I introduced the Iraq Reconstruction Improvement Act to stamp out the corruption and bureaucratic bungling that has so far marked the reconstruction of Iraq. It is unacceptable that we have thus far failed to deliver the basic services that would allow Iraqis to rebuild their country and live dignified, peaceful lives.”

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, voted for the bill and said:

tauscher3.jpg“I am proud that Congress has come together on behalf of our troops in Iraq, our veterans, and the will of the American people to pass this bill and finally begin to change the course in Iraq.

“The Iraq War has already lasted longer than our involvement in World War I and World War II, yet, for the first time since this war began Congress is refusing to hand the President another blank check for his failed policies. It’s time to end what has become the Bush Administration’s open-ended commitment to fighting the Iraqis’ civil war for them.

“The benchmarks in this bill are responsible and reasonable, and they institute some long-overdue accountability that will force the Iraqi government to step up to the plate.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, voted for the bill and said:

mcnerneyportrait.jpg“The Iraq war has now carried on for more than four years. While there have been moments of hope in Iraq, they have been overshadowed by a deteriorating situation and an increase in violence and chaos.

“Our troops have performed admirably. But now, our men and women in uniform find themselves amidst a religious civil war. If they stay, they will continue to oversee the killing. Many American troops will be wounded or killed in the process. However, if our troops pull out too quickly, chaos and violence will surely follow, perhaps engulfing neighboring states.

“There is no question that this is a difficult situation with no clear options. But I believe our plan is the most responsible course we can take. It moves our efforts in a new direction that protects our troops and honors our veterans. It uses the leverage we have available to make Iraqis responsible for Iraq, and it refocuses efforts on Afghanistan and the war on the terror.

“Our plan was developed only after discussions with military and foreign policy experts, and considering the Iraq Study Group Report’s recommendations, the Pentagon’s standards on combat readiness, and the growing needs of returning veterans and their families.

“Our plan establishes responsible benchmarks and a reasonable redeployment timeline over 12 to 18 months — which I have consistently called for.

“The plan ensures that our veterans and their families are treated with the respect they’ve earned when they return home, by increasing funding for veterans’ health care — including specifically addressing post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, the hallmark injuries of this conflict.

“It is time for a new direction in Iraq. This reasoned plan accomplishes just that.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, voted for the bill and said:

eshoo.jpg“Madam Speaker, our country has just begun the fifth year of war in Iraq. By overwhelming numbers, the American people want a new direction and I believe this bill contains the policy and the plan to help bring an end to the misguided policies of the Administration.

“Military leaders, Generals Abizaid, Odom and Powell, as well as former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, have all come forward to observe that the Administration’s war-without-end policy is not a strategy for success.

“Today’s legislation directs itself to important change. It sets a new course for ending the war.

“The bill requires accountability: It puts the Iraqis in charge of Iraq. If they cannot or will not bring their country under control, if conditions continue to worsen and political and military benchmarks are not met, beginning in July 2007 (less than four months from today), our troops will begin an immediate redeployment.

“The bill begins a redeployment: It sets a firm timeline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and in legally-binding terms declares that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2008, if not sooner.

“It requires the Iraqis — not our soldiers — to reign in the militias, aggressively pursue the insurgents and provide `evenhanded security for all Iraqis.’

“The bill prohibits the establishment of any permanent military bases. It bans the use of torture. It redirects resources back to the fight against terrorism and Al-Qaeda, and recommits us to creating a stable state in Afghanistan.

“The bill takes care of our troops. It provides over $3 billion more than the President’s request to meet the neglected needs of our returning soldiers and veterans around the country.

“The following are quotes from respected national leaders:

“Retired General William Odom, former Director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan and member of the National Security Council under President Carter stated recently: ‘Getting out of Iraq is the pre-condition for creating new strategic options.’

“According to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘The United States cannot afford an open-ended commitment to a war without end. A means must be devised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq and reduce our troop levels, so that we can begin to rebuild our military and reclaim our position of leadership in the world. The bill the House will consider this week does that in an effective and responsible way.’

“Former NATO Commander Wesley Clark: ‘The conflict must be resolved politically — military efforts alone are insufficient — and this legislation strongly promotes that political solution.’

“Madam Speaker, I will vote for this supplemental legislation. For the first time the debate about Iraq is not ‘if’ or ‘how.’ It is about ‘when’ … when our troops will come home.

“It is binding language.

“It is sensible language.

“It is language that will change the direction of the war.

“It is language that will help to heal our wounded troops.

“It is language that will help heal our nation.

“I urge my colleagues to support the bill.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.