Sen. Carper Delivers Senate Speech on Iraq Vote

Senator Urges President to Sign Iraq Supplemental Funding Legislation

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today voted in support of the Senate’s Emergency Supplemental bill that fully funds troops and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The full text of the speech Sen. Carper delivered on the Senate floor today is as follows:


The Founders of this country did not believe in monarchy. Meeting in Philadelphia 220 years ago and some 30 miles from my home in Delaware, they did not invest all power over our national affairs and our national destiny in the hands of one person. Rather, they created a separation of powers. They created three co-equal branches of government.

When it comes to charting this nation’s course in Iraq, all three branches of our government have responsibilities.

Before the President could go to war in Iraq, he had to come to Congress for approval. Now, to continue that war, he has had to come to Congress, each and every year, to request and receive approval for more funding.

Both Congress and the Supreme Court have exercised oversight over the President’s war policies – Congress through oversight hearings, and the Supreme Court through rulings on constitutional questions concerning the detention and interrogation of prisoners.

That Congress act as a co-equal branch of government, and not as a rubber stamp for decisions made by the President, is what the Founders wanted in 1787. And it is what the American people want today.

It was, in part, because Congress failed in recent years to exercise adequate oversight over the President’s policies in Iraq that the American people went to the polls last fall and demanded a change in Congress.

So let us not debate whether Congress has a role to play in charting our course in Iraq. And let us not kid ourselves that Congress can meet its responsibilities in this regard by continuing to rubber stamp the decisions of the President.

The President has come to Congress once again to request continued funding for the war in Iraq. To put matters in the most basic of terms, Congress has three options. We can say "yes." We can say "no." Or we can say "yes, but."

To simply say "yes," after U.S. policy and conditions on the ground have drifted in the wrong direction for more than three years, would be to abdicate our responsibility as a co-equal branch of government.

To simply say "no," when we have troops on the ground, in harm’s way, would be a betrayal of the very Army this Congress is charged by the Constitution to raise and support.

The responsible action is to respond to the President’s request is to say "yes, but." It is to provide our troops with the support they require to perform their assigned mission, but at the same time to exercise our power as a co-equal branch to begin to change the nature of that mission.

The first part of our response to the President – funding the troops – should not be controversial. The President has requested the funding. We are providing that troop funding. Indeed, we are not only providing what the President requested. We are making some additions, particularly to improve the care of the wounded when they return home.

The second part of our response to the President – seeking a change in the nature of the mission in Iraq – should not be controversial, either.

There is an old saying: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." We have been approaching the challenge we face in Iraq in essentially the same manner for close to four years now. Over that time, conditions on the ground have grown progressively worse. It is clearly time we change our approach.

Last year, the minority in Congress called for a change. In response, the American people made that minority in Congress a majority. That majority has a responsibility to the people who elected us and who pay our keep to follow through, and demand change from the President.

The changes we seek are not sudden or rash. They reflect the sober assessments and the unanimous recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, co-chaired last year by Jim Baker, a prominent Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a highly-regarded Democrat who also served as vice-chair of the 9-11 Commission.

The Iraq Study Group said we need to make it clear to the leaders of the various factions in Iraq that we are not going to be there forever. That is the first message we are sending with this legislation.

The President equates this with surrender. But his own defense secretary said otherwise just last week. Secretary Gates said the fact that Congress is beginning to send this message to the leadership in Iraq is having a beneficial effect on the ground in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group said that a political settlement between the factions in Iraq is needed to quell the sectarian violence. The legislation Congress will send to the President establishes benchmarks by which Congress and the American people can measure the progress of the Administration and the leadership in Iraq toward achieving this political settlement.

The Iraq Study Group said that a diplomatic settlement is needed amongst Iraq’s neighbors to ensure regional stability. The legislation Congress will send the President creates a window of opportunity, while our forces are transitioning to a new mission, for a regional diplomatic offensive aimed at containing Iraq’s sectarian violence and preventing a broader regional conflict.

The President does not want to change the mission in Iraq. He wants to do more of the same. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group rejected that approach. The American people have rejected that approach. And now, the Congress of the United States is rejecting that approach.

For those who wonder what this debate is all about, it really comes down to two points – one a point of agreement, the other a point of disagreement.

On one thing, Congress and the President agree. We should support the troops. The way to support the troops is for Congress to pass this bill and for the President to sign it. The funding is all here.

On one thing, Congress and the President disagree. Congress wants to begin to change the mission in Iraq. Unfortunately, the President wants appears to want more of the same.

We disagree on this second point, of whether the time has come for a change. The question is whose view should ultimately prevail.

The answer is the will of the American people should prevail. They are the ones paying for this war. It is they who are sending their sons and daughters to fight and die in this war.

As they told us loudly and clearly at the ballot box last fall, the American people want a change.

To provide our troops with the support they deserve and to provide the American people with the change they demand.

I realize the conventional wisdom around here is that the President will veto this bill, send it back to us and, then, we’ll all get serious about hammering something out that can become law.

With all due respect, Mr. President, this legislation should become law. I urge you to drop your veto threat and sign it.