This week, members of the House and Senate will meet to begin work on the final version of the emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate's bipartisan version of this legislation provides $123.2 billion primarily for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for improving the health care for returning soldiers and veterans, for continued Hurricane Katrina recovery for the Gulf Coast, to fill major gaps in homeland security, and to provide emergency drought relief for farmers.
The American people have sent a clear message to Washington: it is time to start bringing our troops home from Iraq. Unfortunately, President Bush isn't listening. That's why the Congress has responded, crafting a new direction that will provide the Iraqi government with the necessary motivation to pursue real political reconciliation. The House and the Senate bills take different paths toward this goal, but each recognizes that the American people do not support an open-ended U.S. military occupation in Iraq.
In the days since the Senate approved its version of the supplemental, the White House has taken on the regular practice of demonizing the Congress and attacking the bipartisan bill. Once again, President Bush took to the bully pulpit today and repeated his hollow claims that the provisions in this legislation would somehow undercut our troops. This is nonsense. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has determined that our military has $52 billion to cover expenses through the end of May.
The President also asserted that Congress is holding funding for the troops hostage for what he has called "pork barrel" spending. More nonsense. Facts matter and once again the President is out of touch with the facts. This is legislation that meets some of the most critical needs of our troops and our nation.
It is time for the White House to drop this trumped-up crisis talk and get down to the truth.
Let's take a look at what the House and Senate bills will actually do. We will provide our troops with body armor and specialized armored vehicles, which the Administration has failed to do. We will strengthen and improve health care for our troops and veterans, which the Administration has not done. And Congress will craft a responsible strategy for the Iraqis to take control of their own nation. Congress will insist on accountability and responsibility both from the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government.
These priorities, the White House claims, are extraneous and wasteful. I simply cannot understand why the President is so eager to send endless billions of taxpayer dollars to rebuild Baghdad, yet is unwilling to fund priorities here at home, such as rebuilding the Gulf Coast or providing first-class health care for our veterans and our troops returning home from war.
We will complete work on this legislation quickly and send it to the President before the end of the month. The President will have to decide whether to sign the bill into law or ignore the will of the American people by holding up this legislation with a veto. If the President chooses to work with Congress, we can reach a bipartisan solution that unites the country rather than divides it, while meeting the expectations and needs of the American people.