News Releases

After All-Night Session, Senate Republicans Block Vote to Redeploy Troops in Iraq

Jul 18 2007

Senator Murray Urges President and Senate Republicans to Redeploy Troops, Refocus on Al Qaeda, Rebuild Our Military and Respect our Veterans

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, after an all-night session of the U.S. Senate, in which U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and other Senate Democrats pushed for a vote on a measure to redeploy U.S. forces in Iraq, Senate Republicans blocked the Senate from voting. 

The Senate was considering the Levin-Reed amendment that would redeploy U.S. forces in Iraq by April 30th, 2008. Senator Murray is a co-sponsor of the amendment. 

The amendment was blocked by a vote of 52-47.  Under Senate rules, 60 votes would have been necessary to move forward to a vote. 

Prior to her vote, Senator Murray made the following statement of support for the Levin-Reed amendment:

It is time for President Bush to finally accept what the American people already know:  The war in Iraq is not making us safer, and our troops should not remain in the crossfire of that country's civil war.

Unfortunately, President Bush refuses to listen to the generals, to the commissions, and to the experts.  He stubbornly insists that leaving American troops in the middle of a civil war will somehow cause factions that have been fighting for centuries to agree to work together.  We've tried that approach, and we've paid dearly.  We've given the Iraqi government the time to reach the agreements needed to form a stable government.  We've done our part. The Iraqi government has not done its part.  

We should not ask more Americans to sacrifice their lives for an Iraqi government that is unwilling to make even the smallest sacrifices for their people and their future.

Because the President refuses to follow a responsible path forward, we in Congress must force a change in our country's policy on Iraq.  For months, Democrats have been trying to force that change.  We've been blocked by Republicans who've continued to support the President's "war without end."  Now – finally – we are starting to see responsible Senators break ranks with the President and work with us to improve our security.

The upcoming vote on the Levin - Reed Amendment is a test for all Senators.  Do they stand alone with the President, or do they support redeploying our troops and making America more secure?  That is the choice every Senator will have to make on this vote.  

As we look at the challenges in Iraq – and the threats around the world -- Democrats want to do four things --

  • Redeploy our troops from Iraq,
  • Refocus our fight on Al Qaeda,
  • Rebuild our military, and
  • Respect our veterans. 

That is the responsible way to protect our citizens, keep our country safe, and keep our military strong. We have tried the President's direction, and where has it led us? More than 3,600 American service members have been killed and another 20,000 wounded.  We've spent nearly $500 billion taxpayer dollars, and under the President's approach there is no end in sight.

1. REDEPLOY OUR TROOPS

It's time for a new direction, and it begins with redeploying our troops.  Iraq's civil war cannot be solved by our military.  It can only be solved when the Iraqis decide for themselves that working together will bring them a better future.  As a foreign military power, we cannot force the Iraqis to set aside their differences and work together.  They have to reach that conclusion themselves if Iraq is to ever become a peaceful, stable country.

When I was in Iraq in 2005, I met with the leaders of the various factions.  Each of them saw themselves as representing their one group – not as people who needed to come together for the greater good.  Unfortunately, since my visit, those sectarian differences have only gotten stronger. 

The Iraqis have not made the progress that only they can make, and I don't think we should keep asking Americans to risk their lives for an Iraqi government that's not doing its job.

So our first step must be to redeploy our troops out of Iraq.  The Levin-Reed Amendment sets a firm deadline to begin the redeployment beginning 120 days after enactment, and it sets April 30th, 2008 as the date to complete the redeployment.  Now this does not mean that every service member will be coming home.  As Senator Levin said, we will need to keep some service members in Iraq for counter-terrorism, for training, and to protect American interests.  Other troops will be needed in other places around the globe as we stay on the offensive against Al Qaeda and other terrorists.  But under this amendment, the bulk of U.S. troops will be redeployed from Iraq.

2. REFOCUS ON AL QAEDA

Second, after we redeploy our troops, we need to refocus our energy on defeating Al Qaeda.  Today, the Director of National Intelligence released the latest National Intelligence Estimate.  The report says Al Qaeda has quote "protected and regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability."  The report also says that Al Qaeda has established a safe haven in northwest Pakistan, has operational lieutenants, and still has its top leadership in place.  And it is determined to strike us here at home.

So while the President has kept our military tied up in Iraq, Al Qaeda has been gaining strength, and we must defeat it.  

3. REBUILD OUR MILTIARY

Third, we need to rebuild our military.  According to generals who have testified before Congress, the war in Iraq has weakened our military's readiness, left our equipment destroyed, hurt our ability to respond to disasters at home, and left our troops without fully-rounded training.  

Today, we are forcing a very tough tempo on our service members.  The Pentagon has extended tours of duties for our troops. The Administration has deployed troops sooner than planned. The Administration has sent troops without all the training and equipment they could have received.  

The Administration has deployed troops without the down-time at home that our service members and their families deserve.  In fact, 56 members of the U.S. Senate tried to fix that last week with the Webb Amendment, but a majority of Republican Senators blocked us.

Our military is the best in the world. I believe we need to address the strains on our service members, so we can remain the best in the world.

Readiness - Equipment

The Iraq War is also impairing our readiness by destroying our equipment.  For example, the Army is supposed to have five brigades' worth of equipment pre-positioned overseas.  But because of the war in Iraq, the Army is depleting those reserves.  General Peter Schoomaker told the Senate in March, "It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks."  [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 3/15/07]

Our military is the best in the world. I believe we need to address the strains on equipment and personnel, so we can remain the best in the world.

Readiness - Training for Other Missions

To meet the President's surge, the Pentagon has been sending some troops to Iraq earlier than planned and keeping other units there longer than planned.  That means that troops are get less time at home, less time between deployments, and less time to train.  Commanders are forced to shorten the training their troops receive, so they're focusing on the specific training they need for Iraq – but not for other potential conflicts.  Now that makes sense.  If there's limited training time, we want all that time devoted to their most immediate need.   However, many military leaders are warning that this fast pace diminishes our ability to respond to other potential conflicts.

Here's how the Colonel who commands the 1st Marine Regime put it:

"Our greatest challenge is and will remain available training time, and because that time is limited, our training will continue to focus on the specific mission in Iraq. This has, and will continue to, limit our ability to train for other operations." 

[Colonel Lewis Craparotta, U.S. Marine Corps, Commander, 1st Marine Regiment, Testimony before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, 4/24/07]

Army Colonel Michael Beech told the Senate in April that he believes our training strategy is broad enough to support a variety of other events.  But he added:

"However, if deployed in support of other emerging contingencies, I would be concerned with the atrophy of some specific tactical skills unique to the higher-intensity conflicts."

[Testimony before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, 4/24/07]

So military commanders are telling us they're concerned that our ability to train for other missions has been limited and certain tactical skills have had to take a backseat to Iraq.  We need to make sure our troops are trained for whatever conflict they might face, and changing direction in Iraq will allow us to do that.

Readiness - Responding to Disasters at Home

The Iraq War has especially impacted the readiness of our National Guard.  The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. General Stephen Blum, testified that the readiness of National Guard forces is at an historic low. General Blum said that,  

 

"Eighty-eight percent of the forces that are back here in the United States are very poorly equipped today in the Army National Guard." 

Testimony before Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, 1/31/07

Not only do we rely on our Guard and Reserve members around the world, but we rely on them here at home to respond to natural disasters and emergencies.  With fire season upon us on the West Coast, I'm very concerned that we don't have all the capabilities at home we should have.

 

After the horrible tornados in Kansas, the Governor of Kansas said that recovery efforts were hampered because there weren't enough personnel or equipment. Those resources were in Iraq, not here at home.   Colonel Timothy Orr of the U.S. Army National Guard told the Senate that his brigade's homeland security capabilities have been degraded.   He testified:  

"Our ability as a brigade to perform these [homeland] missions continues to be degraded by continued equipment shortages, substitutions, and the cross-leveling of equipment between the state and nation to support our deploying units."

[Testimony before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, 4/24/07]

4. RESPECT OUR VETERANS

Finally, we need to respect our veterans. That means keeping our promise to meet their needs as they come home – whether it's for healthcare, benefits, education or support.  

Since Democrats have controlled Congress, we have made dramatic progress for our veterans. First we passed a budget that treated our veterans as a priority.  I serve on the Budget Committee and I was pleased to work with Chairman Conrad to pass a budget resolution that provides over $43.1 billion for veterans' care.  Specifically, our budget:

  • Increases funding for veterans by $3.5 billion over the President's proposal.
  • Funds 98% of the Independent Budget, which is devised by veterans service organizations and
  • Rejects the higher fees and co-payments that the President had proposed, which would have forced more than 100,000 veterans to leave the VA health system.

We also passed a Supplemental – that for the first time since the start of the war – provided funding to help meet the needs of our veterans.  We provided $1.78 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to help those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to reduce the backlog in benefits, and to ensure medical facilities are maintained at the highest level. 

And just last week, we added the Wounded Warriors bill to the Defense Authorization bill.  This proposal will address many of the problems that came to light from the Walter Reed investigations.  It will ensure service members don't fall through the cracks as the move from the Pentagon to the VA. It will help us diagnose, prevent and treat PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.  And it addresses the problems with unfair disability ratings among other improvements. 

It is time to change course in Iraq.  So far the President has been unwilling to recognize the reality on the ground.  Here in the Senate, we have an opportunity to force the President to change course in a responsible way. The Levin-Reed amendment gives every Senator a choice – either you want to stay the course in Iraq and leave Americans in the middle of a violent civil war, or you believe it's time for a change.  I urge my colleagues to do the responsible thing for our troops, their families, our military's readiness and the fight against terror by voting for this amendment.