Would require troop withdrawal by August 2008 or sooner
California Congressman Sam Farr has sent his constituents a summary of the important Iraq bill currently being debated in the House of Representatives. The "U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act" contains $95.5 billion for Iraq and includes benchmarks that require U.S. troop withdrawal by August 2008 at the latest. The bill also contains funds for Afghanistan, veterans' health care, domestic homeland security and agriculture disaster assistance, as well as language to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 over two years. The price tag for all this? $124 billion.
Farr said, "Like previous supplemental funding bills this bill includes funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what makes it different from past Iraq funding bills is that it is the first supplemental funding bill with a date certain for troop withdrawal." As drafted, President Bush has said he would veto the bill. Please read this summary and tell your representatives and senators what you think:
The bill provides for benchmarks concerning progress in Iraq:
By July 1st, 2007 the president must certify that Iraq is making meaningful and substantial progress in meeting the following political and military benchmarks:
1. That the Iraqi government is making "substantial progress in delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad."
2. That the Iraqi government is making "substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including redistribution of oil income, laws to allow local elections, reform the de-Baathification process in place since the coalition invasion of Iraq; allot Iraqi revenue for reconstruction; reduce level of sectarian violence.
If President Bush fails to make this certification, troops must begin immediate redeployment and U.S. troop involvement in the Iraq civil war must be completed by December 2007 (within 180 days).
By October 1st, the president must certify that Iraqis have achieved key benchmarks. If he does not make this second certification, troops must begin immediate redeployment (withdrawal) to be completed by March of 2008 (180 days).
If the president makes both certifications, the Administration must start redeploying (withdrawing) the U.S. Military from Iraq by March 1, 2008 and complete the redeployment by August of 2008 (180 days).
The bill calls for enforcing these benchmarks, with 50% of international economic support and international narcotics and crime funds within the bill withheld until the president makes a certification to Congress.
The bill stipulates that troops cannot be sent overseas unless the chief of the military department has certified to Congress that troops are "fully mission capable." If a unit is not "fully mission capable," the president must explain why the unit's deployment to Iraq is necessary. Marines cannot be deployed for longer than 210 days, while Army forces cannot be deployed for longer than 365 days. All troops are required to have one year of rest between deployments.
Any troops remaining in Iraq after redeployment can do so only to protect diplomatic facilities; serve in diplomatic roles; engage in targeted military actions against al Qaeda and train members of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Non-Iraq related emergency funding items in the bill include $1.2 billion to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan; $4.5 billion dollars to end the neglect of troops and veterans, focused on traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and improving military and veterans' hospitals. Another $1.4 billion will be advocated to cover the shortfall for the Basic Allowance for Housing for men and women in uniform and their families; $3.1 billion to fully fund 2007 needs for Base Realignment and Closure and $2.6 billion to address domestic homeland security needs including aviation, port, container and border security.
Other key funding provisions include:
$1 billion for pandemic flu preparedness, to begin purchasing vaccines needed to protect Americans from a global pandemic.
$2.9 billion for Gulf Coast recovery efforts (Hurricane Katrina)
$735 million to eliminate shortfalls in the State Children's Health Insurance Program
$400 million to partially restore cuts in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)
$500 million for Wildfire Suppression activities at the Forest Service and Interior Department
$3.7 billion for an agriculture disaster program, including assistance for California citrus and spinach losses and
language from a previously passed bill, H.R. 2, to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over two years.