House Passes Iraq Timeline & Restrictions, Expanded GI Bill

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The House has just passed two of three amendments constituting the emergency supplemental bill. Amendment #1, which contained the funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, failed after 132 Republicans voted present, refusing to take a position for or against. Amendment #2 placing restrictions on the Iraq policy, and Amendment #3 funding domestic priorities including an expanded GI Bill and unemployment insurance, both passed.

Speaker Pelosi, who voted against the war funding included in Amendment #1 and in favor of Amendments #2 and #3, said of the votes:

“With today's vote, the Republicans have shown that they are confused and are in disarray. House Republicans refused to pay for a war they support, and by voting against the GI bill, they refused to support our veterans when they come home.”

Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer added:

“On this war funding vote, Democratic members — to a person — had the courage of their convictions and cast either a yes or no vote. The same cannot be said for the 132 Republicans — or two-thirds of Republican Members — who refused to cast a yes or no vote on this very clear issue and instead voted 'present.' They failed to take a stand. And, I can only speculate as to how they intend to explain that to their constituents back home.”

Amendment #1: $162.5 billion for the Department of Defense, funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the summer of 2009. Failed by a vote of 141-149-132.

Amendment #2: Iraq Policy Restrictions. These include requiring that troops begin redeployment from Iraq within 30 days with a goal of completing withdrawal of combat troops by December of 2009; requiring that any agreement between the United States and the Government of Iraq committing U.S. forces be specifically authorized by Congress; sharing reconstruction costs with the Iraqi government; requiring the troops have adequate training and dwell time with proper deployment lengths; cracks down on contractor fraud by bringing them under US jursidiction and shortening the statute of limitations; prohibits the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq; and bans torture by prohibiting interrogation techniques not authorized in the Army Field Manual. Passed by a vote of 227-196.

Amendment #3: Expanded GI Bill, Unemployment Insurance Extension, Louisiana Levees and other critical needs. This would expand the education benefits veterans receive under the GI bill to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education, and make the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan part of an American economic recovery, just like the veterans of World War II were. It would also extend unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their benefits by up to 13 weeks in every state as well as an additional 13 weeks in states with high unemployment, reflecting the fact that the number of Americans looking for work has grown by 800,000 over the last year. Passed by a vote of 256-166.

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Chairman David Obey of the Appropriations Committee reacts to Republican Mike Pence after he claims that expanding the education benefits for veterans is a burden “on the backs of our troops”:

Chairman Obey: “I cannot believe what I just heard. The gentleman indicated that somehow we’re adding $72 billion that has nothing to do with the welfare of soldiers. I would point out, by far the largest item we are adding to this bill, $51 billion over 10 years is devoted to help those very same soldiers so that the people who fought… when they come home get treated the same way that the GI’s did at the end of World War II. That is not on the backs of the soldiers. That’s trying to enhance their lives. It’s trying to enable reservists and guard members and regular forces who have had their lives disrupted, who have gone to Iraq two and three times, trying to say, ok, you can stay home for a while, get yourself a college education… There are unfortunately some people in this House who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Fortunately, the people who support this third amendment today will not be among them.”

Chairman David Obey of the Appropriations Committee challenges Republicans on their contention that there is “pork” in the bill:

Chairman Obey: “Through the chair I would invite the Member to name a specific piece of Congressional pork in this bill. He cannot because there is none. He’s at least had enough time to read the bill to know that.”

Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter spoke on the entire bill during debate on the rule:

Chairwoman Slaughter: “A few weeks ago the New York Times reported on the Bush Administration’s practice of paying off supposedly independent military analysts to shade the truth about what was really happening in Iraq. This administration was so concerned that Americans would find out the truth that they paid former US military personnel to read from prescreened, whitewashed Pentagon talking points to hide from the American people what was happening in their name. This may be the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history. And the American people overwhelmingly are calling for it to end.”

Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01), the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, speaks in favor of expanding the GI Bill:

Rep. Walz: “The GI Bill was one of the best pieces of legislation that ever left this floor. It allowed millions to attend college that wouldn’t normally have been able to do so. I, like my father before me, is one that stands before you because of that… In times of war, we are asking so much, and as Senator Dole told our committee not more than a year ago, you spend billions putting them in harm’s way, you spend billions getting them out. We need to provide them benefits when they return. We need to keep faith with our young people to know that if they choose to sign up with — to defend our nation, we will stand with them… My colleagues on the Republican side had those five years and chose to do nothing. They enacted tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans… We hear there’s soul searching being done by my Republican colleagues. The only thing you need to do is look in the eyes of those veterans and tell them that you are unwilling to provide them the necessary benefits for them to come back and their lives whole.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro spoke in favor of a provision in the Supplemental requiring that any agreement between the United States and the Government of Iraq committing U.S. forces be specifically authorized by Congress:

Rep. DeLauro: “After President Bush and Prime Minister al Maliki signed a quote, ‘Declaration of Principles’ document, outlining unprecedented security commitments and assurances from iraq, I introduced the Iraq Strategic Agreement Review Act. Today I want to support my provision in the bill that makes it clear any arrangement between the United States and Iraq will not be funded unless it comes in the form of a treaty or specifically authorized by a law. As we speak the Administration is negotiating a strategic framework agreement that goes well beyond a typical status of forces agreement. Essentially amounting to a treaty. It will need to be ratified by the iraqi parliament, and it must be ratified by the United States Congress as well. Mr. Speaker, this issue goes to the heart of our Constitutional duties as a Congress and the power to declare war with which we have been entrusted as Representatives.”
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