Politics & Policy

Funding Is Fundamental

Why we fight.

The purpose of an emergency war supplemental-appropriations bill is to provide funds to meet the urgent needs of the soldiers fighting for us. Unfortunately, House and Senate Democrats intend to deny those funds by passing a bill they know the president must veto.

The supplemental spending bill the Senate passed last week deliberately invites a veto by establishing arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, all without regard to progress that might have been achieved when the deadlines kick in. Such arbitrary withdrawal requirements cannot be accepted by the president or our commanders.

The Pentagon has stated that our troops need funds from the “security supplemental” by April 15; yet, because of Democratic game playing, the bill isn’t even scheduled to get to the president until the week of April 16 at the earliest. Congress then will have to sustain the veto, draft and pass another bill, and agree on a version that can be sent back to the president.

In the meantime, the Pentagon will have to consider suspending troop training and stopping the repair of some equipment in order to find the money to support our troops in Iraq. At a media roundtable at the Pentagon on March 22, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that the “disruption to key programs” that could result from delaying passage of the supplemental would “have a genuinely adverse effect on the readiness of the Army and the quality of life for soldiers and their families.”

Setting arbitrary deadlines for exiting Iraq is terrible policy — it sends the wrong message to our troops, our allies, and the enemy. It tells our troops that whatever efforts they make in Iraq won’t matter, because successful or not, we’re pulling out a year from now. It tells the Iraqi government that its efforts to meet the bill’s benchmarks won’t matter, because we’ll pull out whether they meet those benchmarks or not. And it tells the terrorists all they have to do is wait us out.

Part of the reason our new strategy in Iraq is showing signs of success is because the Iraqis see that we’re committed to permanently halting the violence. Previously, U.S. and Iraqi troops would enter an area, pacify it, and then leave. Now we’re stabilizing areas and then staying there to ensure that the terrorists don’t move back in.

Retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey noted after a recent trip to Iraq that “the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved” since General Petraeus’s arrival. I observed similar progress when I visited Iraq several weeks ago. Congress’s passing a bill that tells the Iraqi people that our commitment essentially ends a year from now undermines the foundation of our strategy just as it’s starting to work.

The entire debate surrounding the “security supplemental” demonstrates a disturbing lack of seriousness about what’s really at stake here. Not content with prolonging this process to the point where the Pentagon will be struggling to find the money to support our troops, Democrats have abandoned their purported commitment to fiscal responsibility and loaded this emergency war supplemental with billions in pork, such as $3 million for sugar cane (which goes to one Hawaiian co-op) and $24 million for sugar beets.

An emergency war-supplemental should fund one thing only:  the urgent needs of our troops. While some of the spending items attached to this bill are perhaps worthy of consideration at another time, they have nothing to do with emergency war-spending and thus have no place in this bill. 

We’ve asked our troops to carry out a mission in Iraq, and we have an obligation to ensure they have the tools to do so. Every day this bill is delayed is a day our troops are without the resources they need. Congress needs to get this legislation to the president immediately, free of arbitrary timelines and spending unrelated to the war. We owe our troops nothing less.

 – Arizona Republican senator Jon Kyl is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”


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