WASHINGTON – In a speech today on the Senate floor,
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) called on the Republican leadership to allow an up-or-down vote in the Senate on President Bush's plan to escalate America's presence in Iraq. The Senator expanded on his vision for Iraq's future and announced his support for the Warner-Levin Resolution, which he called an important first step in asserting bi-partisan opposition to the escalation of American troops.
The following excerpts are from Sen. Cardin's remarks on the Senate floor today:
· “I am frustrated and disappointed that the Republicans are blocking a vote on whether we support or oppose the President's plan to add additional troops into Iraq. . . that is what my constituents are asking us and I think they have a right to expect that the Members of this body are willing to go on the record, either for or against the President's plan to add additional troops in Iraq.
· “So, we got the President's plan, and the President's plan was more of the same – stay the course, but with more U.S. military presence. We had three weeks of hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee and military expert after military expert told us that . . . our policies aren't working and we need to move in a new direction.
· “I congratulate Senator Warner and Senator Levin for coming forward with a compromise resolution that allows us to go on record. I don't agree with everything that is in the resolution, but I do think it clearly puts the Senate on record against the increasing of American troops in Iraq, and that's our responsibility. We should not be hiding behind procedural roadblocks to avoid voting on the most important issue facing this nation today.
· “The President's numbers do not add up. The President said that the surge would involve 21,500 additional American troops in Iraq. Well, that's not the case. It's going to be closer to 48,000 additional American troops. The budget that the President submitted to us says that it's going to cost about $5.6 billion, but the Congressional Budget Office now says it's going to be closer to $27 billion in additional costs just for the escalation alone.
· “Our soldiers have served with great distinction and valor. We owe it to them to get it right. We owe it to them to do everything we can for a successful outcome in Iraq. We have a responsibility on behalf of our soldiers to take up this issue.
· “The Iraqis have a responsibility to take care of their own security needs in the midst of a civil war. We need to engage the international community in a diplomatic process to ensure that the government of Iraq has the confidence of the ethnic communities. We need a new direction in Iraq. We need the international community to help us. We need a plan that includes bringing some of our combat troops home to make it clear to the Iraqis that we're not going to be there indefinitely.
· “But first things first. Let's take a vote on the President's plan. Let's get that done. Let's stop using procedural roadblocks to prevent a vote in this body and let's vote for or against the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. Then we must consider additional options to make it clear that it is our responsibility to help bring about a new direction for American involvement in Iraq.”