Pelosi Floor Statement on Supplemental Appropriations Bill

June 19, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this evening regarding the supplemental appropriations bill.  Below are her remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for yielding.  I want to acknowledge the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey, and congratulate him and his staff on their great work.

“We were able to come to this compromise because we were ready.  Early in the year, we had a bill ready for unemployment insurance, but it wasn't going to be signed by the President, and we had to put it off to another time.  Two weeks ago from tomorrow, the unemployment rate in our country shot up by a half a point, from approximately 5 to 5.5 percent.  It sent a very stern message to the Congress of the United States and to the President that we must act.  Last week, on two occasions, we had strong bipartisan votes in favor of unemployment insurance.  So when Mr. Rangel went to the table to talk about compromise, it was clear we had to reflect the will of the American people.  He was ready with the legislation and I'm pleased that Mr. Boehner was ready to accept that.

“When we had started to talk about this supplemental appropriations bill, little did we know the skies would open and rain would fall and the Midwest would be deluged and there would be a need for disaster assistance to the Midwest.  We were ready and I don't think there was any compromise on that subject.  We all agreed that it had to be done.

“I'm particularly pleased that in the legislation there is a signal sent that this Congress cares about investments in science, cares about the future, not as much as I would like, but nonetheless, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for including that critical funding and I thank my colleagues for accepting it.

“I'm very pleased that this legislation has the GI Bill.  Finally, it became clear that it was what we had to do, what we owed our young people; we say thank you to them by sending them to college.  Mr. Chet Edwards has been a champion on this issue.

“Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry I cannot fully participate in all of the camaraderie that is accompanying this legislation because of the huge amount of money that is in this bill to fund the war in Iraq without any conditions, without any limitation on time spent there.  We sent the original bill to the Senate with conditions and they struck it.  We have no choice.  This is not about a failure of the House of Representatives.  It's about what we cannot get past the next body and onto the next President's desk.

“Mr. Speaker, about a week ago I spoke at the opening of the groundbreaking of the United States Institute of Peace.  And I said that day, it was one reminiscent of one 45 years ago when President John F. Kennedy delivered the commencement address at American University.  In the last summer of a life that was much too short, President Kennedy spoke of a need to seek peace, even in the midst of the Cold War.  He said: ‘The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war,' Kennedy told the crowd assembled.  ‘We shall be prepared if others wish it.  We shall be alert to try to stop it.  But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.'  That was President Kennedy's philosophy of his foreign policy.

“Contrary to that policy, President Bush started a war based on a false premise.  He sent our troops into a situation that he didn't know what he was getting into.  The philosopher Hannah Arendt once observed that nations are driven by the endless flywheel of violence believing that one last, one final violent gesture will bring peace. But, each time they sow the seeds for more violence.  Five years later we are still engaged in the war in Iraq.  Two years longer than we were in World War II.  And that has come at a very great cost.  The costs are clear, of course, and we all mourn: 4,100 of our troops have lost their lives in battle; tens of thousands of our troops injured, many of them permanently.

“Over Memorial Day, I visited our troops in Iraq with some of our colleagues and it was my sixth trip into the theatre.  And what they asked me was what they always asked: ‘What's going to happen to us when we go home?'  And for a long time on those visits, I didn't have an answer that I could be pleased to tell them.  But now because of the leadership of Mr. Edwards and others, we're able to say that when you come home you will be met with the biggest increase in the Veterans Administration health budget in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration, and that means in the history of our country, an even bigger investment this year.  And after tonight, in a bipartisan way, we can proudly say to our troops, to our young student scholars, our student veterans, that when they come home, we will say thank you by sending them to college.

“Let's go back to the cost of that war.  We talked about those who lost their lives, we talked about those who are permanently injured, and it is such a sad story.  The loss to our reputation, the cost to our reputation in the world is enormous.  The Heritage Foundation said the war will cost $2.75 trillion.  It's hard to understand when we said to the President we would like to insure 10 million children in America and he said we can't afford it.  So he vetoed the bill and the Republicans stuck with him on that veto, not all, many voted in a bipartisan way.  For 40 days in Iraq, we can insure 10 million children in America for one year.

“But what is worrisome is the cost to the military capability of our nation.  This is about keeping the American people safe.  This war has diminished the capability for American military forces to protect our interests where ever they are threatened in the world.  So let us hope that this is the last time that there will ever be another dollar spent without constraints, without conditions, without direction.

“So while I'm pleased that we have some spirit of civility here tonight about coming to a conclusion on this bill, and I will enthusiastically vote for the domestic portion, I'm not urging anyone to do anything.  I just want you to know why I will be voting no on the Iraq spending without constraint.

“We owe our troops more than sending them into war on a false premise, without the equipment and training they need, without a plan for success, without a strategy to leave.  This war has not made the region more stable; it has not made our country safer; and it has undermined our capability to protect the American people.  It should come to an end safely, honorably, responsibly, and soon.

“I yield back the balance of my time.”