|2:53 PM EDT||
David R. Obey, D-WI 7th
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the remainder of the time.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want Members to understand this bill was not written in the Speaker's office or any other leadership office. Virtually every appropriation issue of this bill was [Page: H3953]
written in the Appropriations Committee. We did not, obviously, write language that has previously passed the House under the control of other committees. The Energy and Commerce Committee produced the language, for instance, on the Medicaid rules. And the authorizing
committee produced the language on unemployment compensation. That's normal.
In fact, the Speaker herself was joking the other day and teasing me, indicating that there were three items that she had wanted in the bill that the committee had turned down. So I would suggest this is not quite the dictatorship that the myth-makers on the other side of the aisle are trying to portray.
Having said that, let me explain what it is we are doing here today, since the minority leader was courteous enough to ask. What we are trying to do is to recognize a sad fact, which is that as long as George Bush is President of the United States, we are not going to be able to shut down the war. So what we are trying to do is proceed in the most responsible possible manner in order to assure that the next President, whoever he or she is, has at least 3 or 4 months to think through how he or
she would get us out of this god-awful mess in Iraq, which I regard to be the most misguided foreign policy decision in my lifetime.
What we are trying to do is to recognize that we do not have a majority in the United States Senate to shut down this war. And so we are looking at ways to provide Members with an opportunity to speak out on whether they want to see that war funding go ahead or not, a straight up-or-down vote. No coercion, at least on this side of the aisle, no whipping that question on this side of the aisle. Members were told, ``Vote your conscience.''
We are also trying to do two other things. We are trying, once again, to attach conditions to the use of this money. Now I myself will vote against the first amendment because I have no guarantee that the conditions in the second amendment will survive Senate action. If they did, I would be perfectly comfortable with the first amendment because I think the first amendment is a straight effort to do what I just described a minute ago.
But the reason we want to pursue the second amendment is because we think it is about time that the Iraqis, now that they are generating oil surpluses and budget surpluses, we believe it is about time that they begin to assume the costs of their own reconstruction, at least 50 percent of it. This is why we have a 50-50, dollar-for-dollar match requirement which we are imposing on the Iraqis if we are to be expected to spend any more money in reconstructing Iraq. We think that's eminently sensible.
We also think it is about time that Iraq quit overcharging the U.S. military for the price of gasoline. There is no reason why we should be paying through the nose at a much higher price than Iraqis are paying for gasoline.
And then thirdly, we are asking the President of the United States to remember that the United States of America still exists, too, and that there are some problems that we need to address here. In fact, the administration itself has recognized some of them because the administration sent down a reprogramming request to deal with the problem of the Bureau of Prisons. They sent down a reprogramming request to deal with the census. We didn't think we ought to fix those problems by cutting even
more deeply into local law enforcement funding, because those budgets have already been cut far too much. So we rejected the way that the administration wanted to pay for those items. And instead we have included them in this bill fully, fully paid for.
We also have the temerity to believe that if we are going to fight this war, then we ought to also provide a thank you note, a healthy thank you note, for the people who fought the war on our behalf. That is why we are insistent that we pass the expansion of the GI Bill so that you can take people whose lives have been turned upside-down for years, military families from the east coast to the west coast, their lives have been disrupted for years. We want to say ``we want to at least partially
compensate you by giving you the opportunity for a full, 4-year college education at any State university in your State.'' And we have provisions that will even expand beyond that if they go to other schools that also participate in helping finance their education. We make no apology for including that.
We have heard from at least three speakers on that side of the aisle that we are providing $51 billion for that on the backs of the soldiers.
It isn't on their backs. It's an effort to help them. I would point out in the previous GI Bill in World War II, this country got a return of $7 for every dollar that it invested in the GI Bill. We recognize the value of doing that again. We recognize the moral obligation of doing that again, and we make no apology in going forward with it.
We also make no apology for recognizing that when we have millions of Americans unemployed, that there is no harm done by providing to those who have been unemployed the longest and have exhausted their benefits, with 13 weeks of additional assistance as those people look for jobs. This Congress sits here in a comfortable room making $160,000 a year, nickel nursing about our efforts to provide a few additional benefits to people who have been unemployed that long.
If we don't vote for that provision, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. I ask each and every Member to vote your conscience. I am not going to tell you how to vote on any of the amendments. I will be voting against the first, for the second and the third.
But I urge us to get on with it. This is the only way that we can get the problem dealt with.