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Pelosi Floor Speech on Republican Obstruction of Consideration of McGovern Amendment in Defense Authorization Bill

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the House floor today in opposition to House Republican's obstruction of consideration of the McGovern Amendment in the Defense Authorization bill which simply adopts the withdrawal timeline signed by President Obama and Afghan President Karzai earlier this month.  Below are the Leader's remarks:

“Thank you Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank him for his leadership year in and year out to qualify what our mission is, to make sure that we honor our troops and honor them means not having them stay in harm's way any longer than is necessary for our national security.

“Madam Speaker, I rise today in opposition to this rule.  And I do so with some level of sadness because when we're talking about the defense of our country and the oath that we have to take to protect and defend the Constitution, I would have hoped that with this bill, we could have had on the floor the appropriate discussion of what is happening in Afghanistan.  I rise today just having returned with a bipartisan, all-women Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan.  It's our traditional Mother's Day visit to our troops, wherever they're in combat, year in and year out we've recently been going to Afghanistan - Iraq before that.

“The purpose of the trip, this time, to have a conversation with the - certainly the President of Afghanistan, President Karzai, as the first Congressional Delegation into Afghanistan following the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between President Obama and President Karzai.  But our main purpose of the trip was to visit our troops, to thank them for their service and their sacrifice to keep America's families safe on Mothers' Day, and on every day in the year.  Further purpose, is to thank in particular, our women who are in service there.  Our mothers in combat and, believe it or not, our grandmothers who're in the warzone.  We met a mom who has a baby 16-weeks old.  I had the honor of pinning a ribbon on a newly appointed Captain, a woman Captain, six children - four to fourteen at home - in the tenth month of her one-year deployment in Afghanistan

“Our women in the military serve our country very well.  They strengthen our national security and we are grateful to them and their families.  And we're grateful to all of our men and women in uniform.  They're the one percent that we're to care the most about and focus on.  You hear a great deal about the 99 percent and the one percent, well this one percent is less than one percent of our men and women in uniform - they're a little higher than that when they come home.  And what we say in the military is on the battlefield we leave no soldier behind, and when they come home we leave no Veteran behind.  We'll be meeting with our veterans service organizations today as this bill is being debated.

“So, I wish that the rules would have allowed for consideration of the McGovern Amendment - I was surprised, frankly.  And I'm rarely surprised around here.  I was surprised that that discussion could not take place on this floor in the form of approving that amendment because it is in furtherance of what is happening in the Strategic Partnership [Agreement].

“I can tell you this on the basis of our trip and we have to be careful when we returned, Congressional Delegations from the trip, that we don't read too much into our observations.  But what we did hear that was different from before, going every year is that our troops leadership is the fabulous General Allen is so great, and the other Generals and Commanders who serve with him.  They're preparing for the timetable spelled out in the President's Strategic Partnership Agreement, signed by the two Presidents, that on the civilian front what we're doing - USAID and our Americans who are serving there, as well as the coalition forces and friends who are helping in Afghanistan are working along the path of this Strategic Partnership Agreement and then the civilian part to go beyond that.

“So, really, I come home more encouraged than ever that it is possible for us to accomplish our mission, which is the protection of the American people, to do so in a way that has, it comes to an end, it's never over, our protection of the American people is an endless commitment but at least the commitment of that many troops on the ground in that country is one that we can say that soon we will bring our troops home safely.  And that hopefully will be soon.

“So, the timetable that Mr. McGovern has in his amendment is in sync with what that partnership is.  There is other language in the bill, frankly, that I think confuses the issue, and that's why the clarity of debate would have been helpful.  I am glad that the amendment by Mr. Smith, the Ranking Member, that is a bipartisan amendment, will be able to come to the floor, which addresses the detention issue and will have a fuller discussion of that when that amendment comes to the floor.  But, to recall, President Obama, when he signed last year's bill, did a signing statement that said he would not enforce that part of the bill.  Hopefully today, we can remove that part from the bill because it flies in the face of our commitment to protect the American people and to have the proper balance between security and liberty and freedom.  And that is our responsibility.

“So, I urge my colleagues to vote ‘no' on this rule, to vote ‘no' on moving the Previous Question, unless we can take up the McGovern Amendment.  And, again, salute the President for the Strategic Partnership Agreement, but most of all support our men and women in uniform and their families for their service, their sacrifice and their patriotism for our country.

“Madam Speaker I yield back.  Thank you.”