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Op-Ed: DeFazio on Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill

Mar 25, 2007
Press Release
The Register Guard
March 25, 2007
By Peter DeFazio

I recently voted to oppose the president's plan to escalate the Iraq war, just as I voted against the original authorization for the war in 2002. I first proposed my own plan for a timeline to bring our troops home in February of 2005, and I am currently a co-sponsor of three different bills to redeploy out of Iraq within six months to a year. 

Given my long record of vocal opposition to this war, I've been asked why I voted Friday to support the emergency supplemental spending bill that includes funds for troops in Iraq. 

For the first time since the war began four years ago - and less than three months since the change in control of Congress - Democrats are beginning to impose accountability on the Bush administration's open-ended commitment of American troops and treasure to Iraq. Put simply, this bill will end the war. It sets a binding deadline to bring our troops home.

Under the bill, our troops could be home as early as the end of this year - and would be required to be home no later than mid-2008. While I personally could support and justify an earlier deadline for withdrawal, there is nowhere near majority support in Congress for that. Of the dozen bills introduced to end the war this year, none has more than 102 co-sponsors, fewer than half the number necessary to win a vote in the House. 

Some have suggested that defeating this bill would have caused the war to end, simply for lack of money. The reality is, Pentagon leaders have said they would just shift money around to continue the war by shortchanging readiness and repairs, and delaying reinforcements for our troops already in Afghanistan - including 800 members of the Oregon National Guard. Without the binding deadline in the bill, Republicans and a large number of conservative Democrats would just pass a ''clean'' spending bill that continues to fund an open-ended war without any accountability provisions.

The choice was between funding the war without strings attached or passing a bill that, for the first time ever, will end the war.

As the national peace group Council for a Livable World wrote, ''The alternative to passing the supplemental is not the passage of legislation with a tighter timeline. Rather, defeat of the supplemental will hand President Bush the policy and political victory he longs for by enabling the passage of a funding bill with no restrictions or timeline for withdrawal at all. That would be an irresponsible and tragic outcome.'' 

I also supported the bill because it contains $4.5 billion to improve health care for military personnel. This money will be used to improve identification and treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury, to address maintenance and staffing deficiencies such as those that contributed to the shameful conditions at Walter Reed Hospital, speed claims processing, and ensure that care can be provided for the growing number of injured veterans.

Importantly, the bill prohibits the United States from maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq and any U.S. control over Iraqi oil. The bill also prohibits U.S. personnel from engaging in torture. 

I was also pleased that the bill refocuses the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by providing an additional $1 billion and reinforcements for that effort. There is widespread agreement that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan. The diversion of military and intelligence assets to an unnecessary war in Iraq undermined the fight against al-Qaeda. This bill will begin to reverse that. 

The bill includes several important provisions to crack down on the wasteful no-bid contracts the administration has repeatedly awarded to its corporate friends. And it will penalize companies that fail to adequately fulfill contracts.

More than 5 1/2 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, our country still has glaring security gaps here at home. The supplemental spending bill includes more than $2 billion to close gaps in aviation security, port security and transit security. 

Finally, the bill will extend federal funding for Oregon counties under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which I requested. Without this funding, counties in southwest Oregon will be forced to lay off workers; cut back on sheriffs; empty jail beds; and reduce public health programs, road and bridge maintenance, and other essential services. 

I support bringing the Iraq war to a conclusion as soon as possible. By establishing a firm timeline, this legislation advances that goal.