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Pelosi: 'Iraq Legislation Ends Blank Check for the President's War Without End'

Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor tonight regarding the new Iraq Accountability Act.  The bill passed by a vote of 221 to 205. 

Below are her remarks:

'Since January, a majority of members of this House have been working to change course and change the mission in Iraq.  Our goals are clear: strengthen our military; bring stability to the region; make the American people safer by ending the war, and allow our attention to be re-focused on defeating international terrorism.  At the same time, we must honor our commitment to our veterans, which as we have seen unfold in recent months, have been sadly neglected. 

'Today, we will take the next step in that effort by, providing for our troops fighting a war in Iraq that the President initiated, but for which he has refused to pay in his annual budget requests; honoring our commitment to our wounded veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other wars who struggle to get the medical care and benefits they deserve from a system overwhelmed, underfunded, and unable to respond effectively; demanding accountability from the Iraqi government on whose efforts at national reconciliation depends, but whose accomplishments in this area have been negligible, disappointing, and unworthy of the sacrifice of our troops on the ground in Iraq.

'This legislation ends the blank check for the President's war without end.  It provides a path to stability in the Middle East by changing our mission in Iraq, and enables us to focus on the threat of terrorism. 

'Chairman Obey's bill satisfies each of these requirements.  It meets the immediate needs of our troops, but allows Congress to decide in a few months whether the situation on the ground in Iraq justifies using the remaining money to redeploy our forces, or continue the war.  The President's own benchmarks for measuring progress in Iraq will be the centerpiece of that evaluation. 

'You would think that the President would embrace this legislation.  It has his benchmarks, it asks for a progress report.  Perhaps he thinks there will be no progress, so he's afraid of that report; and then we will have a vote in the House as to whether to continue the war.  This is the kind of regular and responsible review of the war Congress should have been conducting since the mission began more than four years ago.

'Regrettably, but not surprisingly, the President has threatened to veto the Obey bill.  Unfortunately, the President has taken us down this road before.  The President has brought us to this point by vetoing the first Iraq Accountability Act and refusing to pay for this war responsibly.  He has grown accustomed to the free hand on Iraq that he had before January 4.   Those days are over. 

'The American people have made it clear that they want a new direction on Iraq, one that is going to bring this war to an end.  They have lost confidence that the President can, or will, produce a plan to do that.  Even some Members of the President's own party have finally realized that he has lost credibility with the American people.

'The President said today that he would accept benchmarks.  But what he fails to accept is accountability for failing to meet those benchmarks.  Benchmarks without consequences are meaningless.

'It's interesting to me that in the President's No Child Left Behind legislation he has established standards for America's school children.  And if those children do not meet those standards there are serious consequences for them, for their families, for their schools, and for their school districts.  And yet, while holding America's school children accountable with consequences, the President refuses to hold the Iraqi government responsible with consequences while our young people in Iraq are dying.

'Congress has offered the President recommendations for change in Iraq.  In rejecting them, he has offered nothing in return except a demand for more of the same - a blank check for a war without end.  The American people expect more and deserve better.  A war which has ended so many lives, weakened our military at great risk to our security, and cost so much money, cost so much in reputation for America throughout the world, can not continue indefinitely.

'This bill offers more ideas for winding down this war.  I urge the President to consider these ideas, and those which may be proposed by the Senate, and work with us in conference to produce a bill that meets the needs of our troops and the expectations of our country. 

'We owe it to the American people to try to find our common ground so that we can end this war.  And we will do that.  But we will stand our ground if it is a blank check for a war without end.  We look forward to continuing our conversations with the White House, with the Senate, to again draw down this war and bring home our troops safely and soon.'