WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, voted to require a timeline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.  With today’s passage by a vote of 218 to 212, with one member voting “present,” of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act, the Democratic Congress has for the first time applied strict restrictions and limitations on the war in Iraq.  The bill requires the President to certify to the Congress that certain tough benchmarks of progress have been met by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces; if the benchmarks have not been met U.S. troops must begin an immediate withdrawal.  Even if the benchmarks have been met, the bill requires a U.S. withdrawal to begin no later than March 1, 2008 and finish no later than August 31, 2008.

The bill also includes language drafted by Rep. Markey barring the use of funds appropriated by the bill to fund “extraordinary renditions.”  President Bush has used renditions to transfer detainees for interrogation or other purposes to countries known for the use of torture. 

Rep. Markey said, “It is long past time to end the disastrous war in Iraq, and the timeline for U.S. withdrawal passed by the House finally puts us on the path to bringing our troops home.  Democrats want the troops home yesterday, but we have to force the hand of a intransigent President who refuses to admit that the quagmire of his war is drowning American national security and shattering the stability of the Middle East.”

“This bill also puts the President on notice that the Congress will not allow funding for his policy of outsourcing torture, which he calls “extraordinary rendition.”  My language in this bill bars funding for the outsourcing of torture, and I look forward to passing my comprehensive legislation on rendition, the Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act, which will end this heinous practice outright,” Rep. Markey concluded.

Rep. Markey’s statement for the record of the debate on H.R. 1591 is below:

Statement of Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
House Floor Debate
HR 1591 “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act”

March 22, 2007

Madam Speaker, the war in Iraq is a disaster.  We are engaged in a war that should never have been fought and that was presented to the American people and this Congress over four years ago wrapped in falsehoods and mendacity.  Our military is being drained of personnel and materiel in an occupation that, we were told, would never occur because we would be greeted as liberators. 

To say that the President’s prosecution of this war has been mismanaged misses the much more important point that President Bush exercised extraordinarily poor judgment in initiating an unnecessary war of choice.  Our soldiers, their families, and indeed the entire country now bears the legacy of the President’s headstrong rush into this quagmire.

The President, with the Iraq War supplemental appropriations request, has again asked the Congress to give him a blank check to continue an endless and bottomless war.  But that is not what the President will get with this bill.  Instead of a blank check, the Congress is providing a much needed check and balance to the Executive Branch.

The bill before us today requires the President to certify to the Congress that certain tough benchmarks have been met.  If he cannot so certify, an immediate redeployment of U.S. forces must commence.  Under the bill, by July 1, 2007, the President must certify that Iraq has met political and military benchmarks, including the implementation of a program to disarm the militias.  By October 1, 2007, the President must make another certification of Iraq’s progress, including that militia control of local security has been eliminated.  And even if the President is able to make both certifications to Congress, this bill requires that U.S. forces begin withdrawing from Iraq by March 1, 2008 and complete that withdrawal no later than by the end of August, 2008.

These limitations on the President are important, as they will pave the way for the United States to finally withdraw from Iraq. 

This bill also prohibits permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, which is an essential precondition for the reestablishment of public trust in the United States within the Middle East and especially Iraq.

Particularly significant to me is a prohibition included in this bill which bars the use of funds from this supplemental in contravention of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  I have had to fight to include this provision in previous appropriations bills under the Republican Congress and I would like to thank and commend Chairman Murtha for his leadership and courage on this issue.  In this bill, my restriction on the use of funds for torture also includes a specific ban on the use of funds to carry out renditions, which the President has used to transfer detainees for interrogation or other purposes to countries known for the use of torture. 

Madam Speaker, I don’t want to see the war continue another day.  I want our troops home immediately, and I am frustrated beyond words by the President’s continued intransigence in the face of overwhelming evidence and opinion.  The bill that this House is debating today will take us closer to the moment when every American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine in Iraq can be brought home.

I urge adoption of the bill.