We Need a Clean Troop Funding Bill, and We Need It Now

By Congressman John Boehner Posted in Comments (10) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

“While General Petraeus calls al Qaeda ‘public enemy number one,’ Democrats have purposely written a bill that limits his ability to take them on.”

House Republicans will have no trouble sustaining the President’s veto of a Democratic bill that shamefully ties critical troop funding to a series of arbitrary conditions and timelines, not to mention billions in unrelated spending. And while Democrats are now toying with idea of rationing support for our troops in the short-term while they find another way to force a withdrawal, that won’t work either. What we need is a clean bill – an up or down vote on giving our troops the resources they need to succeed.

For the benefit of those who think “supporting the troops” means choking off their resources and undermining their mission, here is a brief primer on what a clean bill should look like.

First of all, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to a surrender date. Democrats repeatedly say the war in Iraq is “lost” and make the peculiar argument that America should instead “go after the terrorists where they are.” They should listen to their House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who has admitted al Qaeda has a “very significant presence” in Iraq. He’s right – al Qaeda’s presence in Iraq is real and it is deadly, and it is foolish to think that withdrawing would somehow diminish the threat it poses.

Read on . . .

There is no doubt that al Qaeda would benefit from America’s failure. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has soberly reminded his colleagues that, over the last few years, every time “U.S. forces pulled back, al Qaeda rushed in” to fill the void. The long-term consequences of a retreat would be devastating for America’s national security, fostering further regional chaos and providing fertile ground for al Qaeda to plot future attacks.

Democrats should also listen to the Washington Post’s David Broder who lambasted the mistaken argument that “the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can succeed.” In fact, General Petraeus has insisted that “military action is necessary to help improve security” in Iraq. Circling a surrender date on the calendar will do nothing to help our soldiers succeed in Iraq, and it will do nothing to further political and diplomatic progress.

Second, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to arbitrary conditions. Democrats claim they want “benchmarks.” But benchmarks, by definition, are used to measure progress so that adjustments can be recommended periodically – based on results – to improve weaknesses and build upon strengths. What Democrats have actually authored and supported are a series of unrealistic conditions and timelines that choke off resources for our troops.

While General Petraeus calls al Qaeda “public enemy number one,” Democrats have purposely written a bill that limits his ability to take them on. Last week the general described areas of Iraq like al Anbar province where Sunni Arab tribes are “linking arms” with American and Iraqi forces to combat al Qaeda. A clean bill will help American forces root out and disrupt terrorist forces – it will not handcuff our generals by putting arbitrary limits and conditions on their resources.

And lastly, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to excess spending. Democrats have openly admitted they “don’t have the votes” to pass an emergency war supplemental, and so resorted to buying votes with billions in unrelated spending. The bill passed by the House and Senate was loaded with billions of dollars that has absolutely nothing to do with American troops or veterans, including money for production of salmon, cows, pigs, and dairy products.

But there’s a better way. If Democratic leaders do the right thing – and put forward a bill that supports our troops without conditions, without surrender dates, and without all of the excess spending – Republicans will be there to support them.

Democrats claim they want to “change course,” but they have failed to explain what they want to accomplish by retreating from the Global War on Terror. Given the nature of our enemy and the long-term consequences of failure, the only course Democrats have charted is the road to danger.

We need a clean troop funding bill that gives our troops the resources they need to succeed in the Global War on Terror, and we need it now. Let’s get it done and let’s get a bill to the President's desk as soon as possible.

I know I speak for a lot of people on this website that I agree with you completely, Congressman. I really hope, however, that the Republicans in the House and Senate have the tenacity and the courage to stand and deliver in this instance. Prior to the President's veto yesterday, Trent Lott was reported in the Washington Post as saying that there was going to be horsetrading in whatever finally makes it through Congress.

I realize that he doesn't necessarily speak for you, but when Trent Lott has started the post-veto negotiations by effectively softening people up for the compromises and Joe Biden is telling constituents that the Democrats are going to "...shove it down [Bush's] throat..." I'm already beginning to expect the worst.

We can talk all we want about what a "clean bill" means, but unless our Republicans in Congress have the spine to stand and deliver this time, all of our work in the blogosphere doesn't matter worth a da*n, excuse my frustration, sir.

Thanks for your comment – and you're right in that Democrats will surely try anything to avoid offering up a clean bill. Just look at the latest idea floating around: to ration out troop funding over a period of time. But House Republicans have been united in opposing the Democrats’ defeatism, whether on their non-binding resolution, their slow-bleed strategy, or their final conference report. We will stay united in support of a clean bill the President can sign to support our troops.

Here is my concern; what articulation of conditions will be acceptable? To clarify are there any "conditions, goals or other benchmarks" acceptable to Republicans which are not punitive or are not otherwise tied to the funding directly but perhaps "state" what we would hope to achieve? Is that a "non starter" with the desired outcome being a bill that resembles past legislation minus the pork?

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"
Contributor to The Minority Report

I will assume the lack of response indicates that talk of nonbinding benchmarks, goals, etc. without troop withdrawal threats or other linkage is still on the table.

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"
Contributor to The Minority Report

Mr. Boehner--Like your Republican colleagues in the house and senate, I take your faux outrage with a grain of salt. Unless or until republicans (conservatives) show some back bone and more specifically, principle, and stand up to the truly hideous democrats who have spread lies and enemy propaganda for almost 7 years, I can't do anything but tune you out.

The Dems have "failed to explain what they want to accomplish by retreating from the Global War on Terror", because of this: If we don't retreat, we might succeed.

If we succeed, or if in any case Iraq doesn't look like a complete disaster in 2008, the voters might swing back to the right.

If the Dems can't get the White House back next year, after eight years of howling moonbats and nutty (D) congresspersons and a complicit media all getting down on the Bush administration, they might never get it back. And they know it. They're desparate.

But they can't say that. That's why you'll never hear a straight answer on the topic of "why they want to retreat from Iraq."

i fail to see how unseating saddam hussein and starting an internecine war in iraq leads to the capture and prosecution of the hijackers of four airliners, the senders of anthrax through the usps and the murders of the airline passengers, of the occupants of the pentagon and the world trade center and of the people infected by the anthrax.

Neither party is being sensible. Everyone agrees that without progress toward political reconciliation (oil revenue deal, modification of de-Baathification, etc.) and military/security improvements (in effectiveness and non-sectarianism), our presence in Iraq is merely delaying a catastrophe, not preventing it, and at the cost of our troops (and dollars) in the meantime. Everyone agrees that the Iraqi leadership (the Shiite political leaders and the veto-wielding Sistani) is not yet making a good faith effort to make such progress, particularly on the political reconciliation (yes, they have finally drafted some legislation, but they still have not passed it). Everyone does or should agree that making the continuation of our FULL support contingent upon the Iraqis meeting REALISTIC benchmarks toward such progress will increase the likelihood that they will do so.

Yet, the Democrats want to set a deadline to leave regardless of whether or not the Iraqis meet such benchmarks. This sends the message to those who might otherwise be inclined toward reconciliation that they cannot count on us, so they better focus on the inevitable full-scale civil war rather than risk their preparedness for that war by taking steps toward reconciliation. For example, will Maliki turn on the Mahdi army if he knows he'll need them as allies in a war vs. the Sunnis? Will Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar continue to resist al Qaeda if they know they'll need help against the Shiites? Will the Shiites reverse de-Baathification if they know the Sunnis will soon be their explicit enemies? AND the Democrats' suggested policy, needless to say, sends the wrong message to our enemies: they can wait us out and/or inflict as many American casualties as possible to ensure the implementation of our withdrawal.

The Republicans, on the other hand, refuse to make continuation of our FULL support contingent upon the Iraqis meeting REALISTIC benchmarks. This sends the message to the Iraqis -- the Shiite leaders in particular -- that they can continue stalling, and use us to fight the Sunnis for them (or alongside them) indefinitely.

The sensible approach would be a policy under which we are committed to full support as long as the Iraqis meet realistic benchmarks, but under which we would reduce our support and objectives if they fail to meet realistic benchmarks. If the Shiites continue to refuse to make serious progress, we should focus more narrowly on our national security and strategic interests -- combating al Qaeda outside of Baghdad and preventing regional war by maintaining a deterrent presence.

A slightly fuller case for my recommended policy is on my RedState blog.

I share your outrage that the Democrats have added extraneous spending and other measures (e.g., minimum wage) to bills related to war funding. Doesn't the concept of "vote of conscience" mean anything to them?

I'm not at all saying that such a tactic is practices exclusively by Democrats, but they are guilty in this case.

our gun sights trained on Iran. You know, the ones building the WMDs? That alone justifies staying in Iraq indefinitely.

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