This past July, I joined with Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters to write President Bush, making it clear that the only funding that we will vote for is funding to protect our troops and contractors and bring them home.
Since that time, 89 of our colleagues have signed on to our letter, bringing the total signers up to 92. And as Congress begins debate on the President's recent request for hundreds of billions more for the conflict in Iraq, our efforts are starting to show progress.
Tonight, the House of Representatives will be voting on h.r. 4156, the strongest Iraq bill to date. While far from perfect, this is the first legislation that has come to a vote on the floor that ties funding to the responsible redeployment of our troops, mandating that the President begin bringing our troops home within 30 days of being signed into law.
While I would of course prefer legislation that sets a firm deadline -- not a "goal" -- of December 2008 for completing the redeployment of our troops, I will be voting for h.r. 4156 because it represents a fundamental break with President Bush's failed status quo. By tying additional funding to a redeployment time line, we will be saying "No" once and for all to the blank-check policy that has fueled the engagement in Iraq for over four and a half years.
While we've passed binding legislation in the House several times this year, between the President's vetoes and his enablers in the Senate (insisting on a 60-vote threshold) we've been blocked from legislating redeployment thus far. But there is no reason why h.r. 4156 should fail in the Senate, and if the Republicans choose to obstruct this legislation then the President will have to do without his money.
In addition to mandating redeployment, h.r. 4156 would ban permanent military bases in Iraq and provide for a regional stability plan featuring comprehensive diplomatic, political, and economic strategies, policies of engagement that serve in stark contrast to the Bush Administration's refusal to work with Iraq's neighbors towards regional stability that all parties have an incentive to pursue.
Finally, the bill will also make clear that the Army Field Manual -- which bans all torture, including the abhorrent practice of waterboarding -- applies to all federal agencies and personnel, a clarification that sadly seems necessary given the reported actions of the Bush Administration.
We clearly still have a ways to go as we seek to end the engagement in Iraq, but the fundamental shift in our policy that h.r. 4156 represents overshadows its limitations. Tying additional funding to the responsible redeployment of our troops is a critical first step in ending the engagement of Iraq, which is why I will support this legislation when it comes to a vote later tonight.