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House Approves Yarmuth Amendment to Increase Iraqi Support for American Forces

 

House Passes Defense Authorization, President threatens veto


(Washington, DC) Late last night, the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act along with Congressman John Yarmuth’s (KY-3) amendment to require the Bush Administration to negotiate a deal in which the Iraqi government would help cover the cost our military operations in Iraq.

Congressman Yarmuth offered the amendment on the House floor earlier today, offering the following statement.

“Madam Speaker, I rise today to offer an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act requiring Iraq to help support our troops stationed in their country.

“Oil revenues have helped generate a multi-billion dollar surplus in Iraq, which is expected to reach $180 billion within three years.  Still, the American taxpayers send $339 million dollars to Iraq each day—money that could be invested here, as gas prices are soaring, education is lagging, healthcare is increasingly out of reach, and everywhere, American families are struggling. 

“When the Administration negotiates a Status of Forces Agreement this year, this amendment will require them to negotiate common sense terms for Iraq to provide support for our military operations on their soil.  This arrangement could be similar to the plan we have with South Korea, where they pay our security costs, or in Japan, which pays for 75 percent of the cost of maintaining troops and grants U.S. base rights.  Whatever the arrangement, the amendment would ensure that America no longer has to shoulder the burden alone.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this amendment to strike a better deal for the American people and create a fair plan for Iraq’s future.”

 
Although the amendment allows the President to determine the terms of the agreement, President Bush opposes the provosion because it “would attempt to determine the legal effect or content of diplomatic agreements with Iraq before they are negotiated,” according to the White House’s veto threat issued yesterday as statement of Administration policy.

The full legislation, which passed with Yarmuth’s strong support, offers a comprehensive plan to protect our troops in harm’s way, restore military readiness and provide servicemen and women with a much-needed pay raise.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, provides all service members a pay raise of 3.9 percent -- 0.5 percent more than the President’s budget request and extends the authority for the Defense Department to offer bonuses and incentive pay. The bill also aids servicemen and women and their families by rejecting the President’s plan to increase premiums and co-pays for the military and retirees who are enrolled in the TRICARE system.  This provision will save troops, their families and military retirees $1.2 billion.

The bill also takes critical steps to end the military’s readiness crisis. Under President Bush, Army readiness has dropped to unprecedented levels, and Army National Guard units have, on average, only 63 percent of their required equipment.  Additionally, many stateside units are not fully equipped and would not be considered ready if called upon to respond during an emergency.

The measure helps restore our nation’s military readiness by funding the Army’s and Marine Corps’ equipment reset requirements, authorizing nearly $2 billion for unfunded readiness initiatives including addressing additional equipment shortfalls, and authorizing $800 million to provide the National Guard and Reserve critically needed equipment. 

The bill also protects troops in harm’s way by authorizing $2.6 billion for additional Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, $947 million for additional Up-Armored Humvees, and $783 million for the continued procurement and enhancement of personal body armor.

“The Bush Administration has let military readiness slip to dangerously low levels,” Yarmuth said. “Today, we have passed a plan that will help address this crisis and ensure our military has the resources it needs and gives our troops a much deserved pay raise.”