This week, people around the world celebrate Passover and Easter. These holy days remind us of the presence of a loving God who delivers His people from oppression, and offers a love more powerful than death. We take joy in spending this special time with family and friends, and we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.
One of our greatest blessings as Americans is that we have brave citizens who step forward to defend us. Every man or woman who wears our nation's uniform is a volunteer, a patriot who has made the noble decision to serve a cause larger than self. This weekend, many of our service men and women are celebrating the holidays far from home. They are separated from their families by great distances, but they are always close in our thoughts. And this Passover and Easter, I ask you to keep them in your prayers.
Our men and women in uniform deserve the gratitude of every American. And from their elected leaders, they deserve something more: the funds, resources, and equipment they need to do their jobs.
Sixty-one days have passed since I sent Congress an emergency war spending bill to provide the funds our troops urgently need. But instead of approving that vital funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 61 days working to pass legislation that would substitute the judgment of politicians in Washington for the judgment of our generals in the field.
In both the House and Senate, Democratic majorities have passed bills that would impose restrictions on our military commanders, set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, and fund domestic spending that has nothing to do with the war. The Democrats who passed these bills know that I will veto either version if it reaches my desk, and they know my veto will be sustained. Yet they continue to pursue the legislation. And now the process is on hold for two weeks, until the full Congress returns to session.
I recognize that Democrats are trying to show their current opposition to the war in Iraq. They see the emergency war spending bill as a chance to make that statement. Yet for our men and women in uniform, this emergency war spending bill is not a political statement, it is a source of critical funding that has a direct impact on their daily lives.
When Congress does not fund our troops on the front lines, our military is forced to make cuts in other areas to cover the shortfall. Military leaders have warned Congress about this problem. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pete Pace, recently testified that if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on training, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces. In a letter to Congress, Army Chief of Staff Pete Schoomaker put it this way: "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families."
If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute. The Army will be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for depots where pivotal equipment is repaired, delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, and delaying the formation of new brigade combat teams. The bottom line is that Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. And others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people.
The full Congress will not be back from spring vacation until the week of April 16. That means the soonest the House and Senate could get a bill to my desk will be sometime late this month, after the adverse consequences for our troops and their families have already begun. For our troops, the clock is ticking. If the Democrats continue to insist on making a political statement, they should send me their bill as soon as possible. I will veto it, and then Congress can go to work on a good bill that gives our troops the funds they need, without strings and without further delay.
We have our differences in Washington, D.C., but our troops should not be caught in the middle. All who serve in elected office have a solemn responsibility to provide for our men and women in uniform. We need to put partisan politics aside, and do our duty to those who defend us.
Thank you for listening.