Hagel Floor Statement on Iraq War Resolution -- February 12, 2007
February 2007 - Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I rise to join my colleagues, Senators WARNER, COLLINS, and others, in offering this amendment to the continuing resolution.
Last week, Senators COLLINS, SNOWE, SMITH, VOINOVICH, COLEMAN, and myself sent a letter to the Senate leadership urging our distinguished majority and minority leaders to reach an agreement so the Senate could debate the war in Iraq.
We said, and I quote from that letter:
The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.
In the letter, we pledged to--again quoting the letter--``explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor.'' That, of course, is why we are here today.
I, similar to my colleagues, am deeply disappointed that a full and open debate on Iraq remains stymied in the Senate. All Members--Members of both parties--have the right and responsibility to present their views and, if they choose, submit other resolutions regarding the war in Iraq.
I am also deeply disappointed that both sides have used procedural tactics in this process. My colleagues and I were assured that the leaders were committed to reaching an agreement on this debate. That has not yet happened, and I, similar to my colleagues, intend to do everything in my power as a Senator to ensure a full and open debate of the Iraq war on the Senate floor in front of the American people. We owe it to our soldiers and their families, and we owe it to the American people.
I wish to focus on one particular aspect of this debate and that has to do with the resolution itself--the relevancy and importance of Senate resolutions. In the last 15 years, there is ample, strong, and significant precedent in the Senate debating a President's military policies while troops are deployed overseas--Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo. In each of those situations, I and many of my colleagues here today in the Senate debated and most of us voted binding and nonbinding resolutions regarding U.S. military operations abroad. Many of these measures expressed opposition to the military operations, criticizing, for example, one, the open-ended nature of the deployment; two, the danger of mission creep or escalation of military involvement; three, the danger of deploying U.S. forces into sectarian conflict; and four, the failure of the President to consult with Congress.
It might be instructive to review some of the Senate's history on these recent debates regarding these recent resolutions. Let me begin with Bosnia.
In June of 1992, U.S. forces began to deploy to Bosnia. In December 1995, the United States was preparing to deploy substantial ground forces into Bosnia, roughly 20,000 American ground force combat troops, very similar to the number we are now looking at in the President's escalation of more American troops into Iraq today.
As a result of President Clinton's decision in 1995, the Senate considered Senate Concurrent Resolution 35, a resolution submitted by our colleague from Texas, the senior Senator, Mrs. Hutchison. This resolution was a nonbinding resolution. Again, this was a nonbinding resolution. This resolution said:
The Congress opposes President Clinton's decision to deploy United States military ground forces into the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement the General Framework Agreement for peace Ðin Bosnia. .....
This resolution also said:
Congress strongly supports the United States military personnel who may be ordered by the President to implement the general framework for the peace in Bosnia.
So, therefore, it is saying we support our troops, but we disapprove of the President's policy to send more troops. This resolution also said it was a continuation of the previous debate on support of the troops already deployed.
As Senator Hutchison said on the Senate floor on December 13:
There are many of us who do not think that this is the right mission, but who are going to go full force to support our troops. In fact, we believe we are supporting our troops in the most effective way by opposing this mission because we think it is the wrong one. .....
A month earlier in November 1995, Senator Hutchison framed the complexities of our military intervention in Bosnia in terms that are eerily relevant to today. She said:
I am very concerned that we are also setting a precedent for our troops to be deployed on the ground in border conflicts, in ethnic conflicts, in civil wars. .....
Opposition to the President's policy but strong support for the U.S. military--this is similar to the debate we are having today on Iraq.
Senator Hutchison's resolution had 28 cosponsors, including our friends and colleagues, Senators INHOFE, CRAIG, KYL, LOTT, BENNETT, HATCH, SHELBY, and STEVENS.
On December 13, 1995, 47 Senators voted in favor of Senator Hutchison's nonbinding resolution. That day, 47 Senators believed you could oppose the President's policy but still support our troops.
The next day, December 14, 1995, the Senate considered Senate Joint Resolution 44, a binding resolution introduced by Senator Dole. This resolution supported U.S. troops in Bosnia. This resolution had six cosponsors, including our colleagues, Senators MCCAIN and LIEBERMAN.
On December 14, 1995, the Senate adopted this resolution by a vote of 69 to 30. That was Bosnia in 1995.
Somalia: In December 1992, U.S. troops began to deploy to Somalia. Nearly a year later, in September 1993, the Senate debated the objectives, the mission, and strategy of our military deployment in Somalia. Speaking on the Senate floor on September 23, 1993, Senator McCain framed the debate when he said:
Somalia is a prime example of lofty ambitions gone awry. Our service men and women have become ..... part of a mission to build Somalia into a stable democracy--something, incidentally, it has never been, and shows no sign of ever becoming this decade.
The manner in which military force is to be used to further this grandiose objective has been left unclear. Without a clear military objective, our forces in Somalia have found themselves involved in a situation where they cannot distinguish between friend and foe. They have often been presented with situations where they cannot even distinguish between civilians and combatants.
On September 9, the Senate voted 90 to 7 to adopt a nonbinding--a nonbinding--sense-of-Congress resolution submitted by Senator Byrd. This resolution called on the President to outline the goals, objectives, and duration of the U.S. deployment in Somalia and said Congress believes the President ``should seek and receive congressional authorization in order for the deployment of U.S. forces to Somalia to continue.''
There are 11 cosponsors of the Byrd measure, including our colleagues, Senators MCCAIN, COCHRAN, BOND, and WARNER.
One month later, after the horrible death of 18 U.S. troops in early October, the Senate considered two binding measures to cut off funds, one introduced by Senator McCain and one by Senator Byrd.
On October 15, 1993, the McCain measure, which would have terminated further U.S. military operations in Somalia, was tabled 61 to 38. That same day, the Senate voted 76 to 23 to adopt the Byrd measure to cut off all funding in March 1994 for U.S. forces in Somalia.
There are two more very clear examples, such as the examples I have given on Somalia and Bosnia, that I could discuss--Haiti and Kosovo--in some detail, and I may do that later. But the point is, the facts are clear. There is clear precedent--clear precedent--for both binding and nonbinding resolutions, as well as legislation to redirect, condition or cut off funds for military operations, and this is at the same time we have and we had military forces in those countries.
So to argue, to state, to imply this is somehow not only irrelevant but unprecedented is not the case. The Congress has always had a responsibility, not just constitutionally but morally, to inject itself in the great debate of war.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, will the Senator yield on that very point?
Mr. HAGEL. Yes, I yield to Senator Warner.
Mr. WARNER. We had in our discussions, and Senator Collins joined in this discussion--that we could not conceive--and that I, this Senator from Virginia, could ever participate in a cutoff-of-funding in regards to this situation in Iraq.
But back to historical precedents. I have this volume, the ``Encyclopedia of the United States Congress,'' compiled by 20 eminent historians in 1995. And on this subject that the Senator addressed, they said the following:
Another informal power of the Congress in the foreign policy field is the passage of resolutions by the House or the Senate, often called a sense-of-the-House or sense-of-the-Senate resolution. Although not legally enforceable, such resolutions are often taken seriously by the President and his foreign policy advisers because they are useful indicators of underlying public concern about important foreign policy questions. Moreover, as a general rule, the White House wants to maintain cooperative relations with the Congress and to give legislators the impression that their views have been heard and have been taken into account in policy formulation.
Clear documentation of the Senator's points in this very erudite resource of the history of the Congress. I thank the Senator.
Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Virginia.
In conclusion, I add that the American people have had enough of the misrepresentations, the politics, and the procedural intrigue in the Senate. I say again to our distinguished leaders of both our parties: It is your responsibility, as leaders of this body, to resolve this procedural dispute so that the Senate can have a full, fair, open debate on the war in Iraq. And I will continue to join my colleagues--Senators WARNER, COLLINS, SNOWE, and others--in making every effort to bring up our resolution at every available opportunity until that debate occurs.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.