House Democrats on the Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health & Iraq Accountability Act
Speaker Pelosi's introduction at the press conference:
Ms. Pelosi. Our national security leaders are here to talk to us about the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act. This is the product of the work among the Members of the House Democratic Caucus who have concerns about our security and the readiness of our troops, who are appalled by the conditions facing our veterans when they return home, and who want to have some benchmarks of accountability for the Iraqi Government to lead to the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq safely, responsibly and soon.
The main principles of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act are on this. First of all, it addresses the needs, honors the promises made to our veterans by expanding funding for veterans health care and hospitals.
It asks the Bush Administration and the Defense Department to live up to their own standards by meeting military standards for troop readiness. They should not be sending our troops into battle without the proper training, without the proper equipment, and in the proper time frame.
It holds the Iraqi government accountable to meet President Bush's own benchmarks for reform, political, economic and diplomatic, in the region. It calls for the strategic redeployment of U.S. combat troops by the end of 2007 or sometime in 2008.
Only then can we refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan to the extent that we must. We must direct our attention there now. We must do it more intensely after we have redeployed the troops. So refocusing our military efforts on Afghanistan and fighting the war on terrorism where it began, where it is a challenge, and where, because we left, it is an unfinished and nearly forgotten war, the terrorists have had an opportunity to reemerge.
Speaker Pelosi on the need for Iraqis to meet the benchmarks set out by President Bush:
Ms. Pelosi. If those benchmarks are not met, or even if they are at some point --our bill calls for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan. This bill takes giant steps toward putting the resources into that war, again, a war that is unfinished and nearly forgotten by the Administration.
Speaker Pelosi on the possibility of a veto from President Bush:
Ms. Pelosi. We're at stage one. We have to pass the bill in the committee, on the floor of the House, go to the Senate, and if we -- I say to my colleagues never confine your best work, your hopes, your dreams, the aspiration of the American people to what will be signed by George W. Bush because that is too limiting a factor. We have to pass it, show that it has support across the country, take the conversation to the American people, and hopefully he will hear them.