On November 7th, 2006, Americans sent thirty-one new Democrats to the House and eight new Democrats (and a very progressive Independent) to the Senate with two clear mandates - fix our broken Iraq policy and clean up the way Congress does business. Our message to the voters should be just as clear: a Democratic Congress will demand immediate change in Iraq and pass tough ethics reform.
That is why I've decided to start the 110th Congress off by addressing these very two issues. Yesterday, I introduced legislation to establish a timetable to redeploy our troops from Iraq within six months. Earlier this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, President Bush called for Republicans and Democrats to "build bipartisan consensus" on Iraq. Unfortunately, he will not be able to build consensus - or gain the support of the American people - by perpetuating his failed Iraq strategy. As the President mulls over changes to his failed strategy, he should recognize that maintaining an indefinite military presence in Iraq or sending more troops to Iraq will only perpetuate the burden that this war is having on our brave troops and on our national security.
My bill proposes a real change in policy in Iraq. It calls on the President to redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq within six months while allowing for a minimal number of forces to remain in Iraq for targeted counter-terrorism activities, training of Iraqi security forces, and for the protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel. This Administration must recognize what the American people already know: It's past time to get our troops out of Iraq. We must redeploy our troops from Iraq so that we can focus on the global threats to our national security - like the ones in Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere - that have only grown while this Administration has gotten us bogged down in Iraq.
The other issue that demands immediate action is lobby and ethics reform. Last year, despite Abramoff, Cunningham, Delay, Ney, and other scandals, the Republican-controlled Congress failed to pass meaningful lobbying and ethics reform. It is clear that failure had a direct impact on the November elections. But there is cause for hope. I'm pleased our new Speaker of the House and majority leader of the Senate have decided not only to put these issues at the top of the agenda, but to make them the very first order of business. I plan to push for the strongest lobbying and ethics reform possible. I will introduce legislation on Monday to put in place an airtight ban on gifts from lobbyists. My legislation will end the practice of Members flying around the country on corporate jets, crack down on privately funded travel, and stop the revolving door between the lobbyists on K Street and the halls of Capitol Hill. Finally, the bill will include an independent office of public integrity to help reinstate the American people's trust in government.
The election is over. Now that the dust has settled and the new Congress is underway, we need to get down to business and show Americans that we are responding to their call for change.