Bush Urges Congress to Pass Emergency War-Spending Bill
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 President Bush today reiterated his call for Congress to pass an Iraq war supplemental appropriations bill and called for a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties to move the process ahead.
Speaking to American Legion Post 177 in Fairfax, Va., the president called for a session next week to work toward a bill that’s not bogged down with pork-barrel projects and “arbitrary deadlines” for a withdrawal from Iraq.
“We can discuss the way forward on … a clean bill … that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground,” he said.
He urged Congress not to use the funding issue to make a political statement that ultimately hurts the troops. “I know we have our differences over the best course in Iraq,” he said. “These differences should not prevent us from getting our troops the funding they need without withdrawal and without giving our commanders flexibility,” he said.
Bush said further delays in passing a bill he can sign will soon put the brakes on military training and equipping and could cause deployed troops to have their tours extended.
“The clock is ticking for our troops in the field,” he said.
Military leaders will be forced to notify Congress in the days ahead that they need to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to cover the funding shortfall. “That means our military will have to take money from personnel accounts so they can continue to fund U.S. Army operations in Iraq and elsewhere,” Bush said.
This transfer comes on the heels of another $1.7 billion transferred last month from money designated for weapons and communications systems and military personnel accounts. Bush said that money had to be redirected so the military could continue funding programs to protect troops from improvised explosive devices and send hundreds of mine-resistant vehicles to front-line troops.
These actions are just the beginning of what’s to come if an emergency-spending bill isn’t passed soon, he said. “And the longer Congress delays,” he continued, “the worse the impact on the men and women of the armed forces will be.”
Bush reminded the group that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently testified that if Congress doesn’t pass a bill by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider curtailing other major efforts.
Among programs that could suffer: equipment repair and quality-of-life initiatives for Guard and reserve forces and stateside training for reserve-component units. “This would reduce their readiness and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the president said.
“If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute,” he said.
The Army will have to consider slowing or even freezing funds for its depots, delaying or curtailing active-force training, and putting the brakes on forming its new brigade combat teams. These measures would have serious consequences for the troops, Bush said. Forces now deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq might need to be extended because other units aren’t ready to take their places.
“The bottom line is this:” Bush said, “Congress’ failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loves ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated.”
That’s unacceptable all around, he said, expressing hope that next week’s meeting with congressional leaders will break the logjam.
“When it comes to funding our troops, we have no time to waste,” he said.