Baucus Cheers Senate Passage of Legislation to Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Senator Says its Time to Stop Nation Building in Afghanistan and Focus on Building America
Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011
Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus cheered Senate passage of legislation to require the President to submit a plan to expedite the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Baucus has repeatedly called for a change of course in Afghanistan since the death of Osama bin Laden in May - with the goal of having all U.S. combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next year.
"We simply cannot afford to continue borrowing money from China to nation build in Afghanistan. It's time to bring our troops home and focus our investments on caring for our veterans and creating jobs here in America," Baucus said. "The service of the men and women of the military has been nothing short of remarkable. They have done everything we have asked of them-but we cannot continue asking them to do the work Afghans can do for themselves.
"There is no choice: we have to balance our books. And how we choose to balance our books will reflect who we are as a nation -- what we value and what we want for our future. And these choices will determine whether the 21st Century will be the American century or whether we will cede our leadership to countries like China, because we were too busy nation building overseas to keep America strong at home."
Today's provision was adopted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate tonight. The House and Senate must now convene a Conference Committee on the larger package for the provision to become law.
Baucus' complete statement in the Congressional record is available below:
Floor Statement of Senator Max Baucus
I rise in support of the amendment calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. I support bringing our troops home for two reasons: first, we can't afford what we're spending today in Afghanistan. Second, we need to focus on nation building here at home.
We are spending $10 billion dollars per month in Afghanistan. Every dime of it is deficit spending. We should listen to the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen. He said our debt is the top security threat facing the United States. We can't continue down this path.
Our troops continue to serve heroically on some of the toughest missions imaginable. They have done everything we have asked of them-and we have asked a lot. Through weekends and holidays. Over frigid mountains and hot deserts. The service of the men and women of the military has been nothing short of remarkable.
It is now time to hand over the responsibility of this war to the Afghans. Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently held a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, among leaders and elders from across Afghanistan.
The assembly approved a resolution calling for the Afghans to take the lead role of the war effort. Let's take them up on their offer. Let's not have American men and women doing the work that Afghans want to do for themselves.
For years we have been putting war spending on our national credit card. In 2003, I joined Senators Biden and Conrad in offering an amendment to the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill that would have offset the war spending.
Instead of adopting the amendment, Congress elected to pay for the war with deficit spending. Over the past decade, we've grown our debt by $1.3 trillion due to war spending alone. The President's budget projects $500 billion dollars in war spending, on top of the Defense base budget, in the coming decade. This endless deficit spending is simply not sustainable.
During our work on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, every member of the panel came to a better appreciation of the difficult financial decisions we face as a nation. There is no choice: we have to balance our books.
But how we balance our books will reflect who we are as a nation. What our values are. What our goals are. Most importantly, these choices will determine whether the 21st Century will be the American century or whether we will cede our leadership to countries like China, because we were too busy nation building overseas to keep America strong at home.
In the year ahead, Congress will make a number of hard choices. And we must be strategic about these choices. We will choose between investments in education. Infrastructure. Health care for our veterans and seniors. And maintaining the best military in the world.
And every month we spend $10 billion dollars in Afghanistan will limit what we can do at home. Every dollar we send to Afghanistan is one less dollar we have for health care for our seniors or education benefits for our veterans.
And the tough choices must be made at a time when the world is changing rapidly. During his final press conference as the US ambassador to Japan on November 14th 1988, Mike Mansfield said, "[Japan and the United States] will work together in the next century which will be the Century of the Pacific.
Our two nations working together will be able to compliment and guide the rest of the world as it moves into this area, into the [Pacific] basin, because we both realize that it is in that Basin where it all is, where it is all about, and where our joint future lies."
Looking back twenty-three years later, his remarks seem prescient. According to the World Bank, China's average annual GDP growth rate since 2001 has been 10.4 percent. Asian developing nations collectively had an average growth rate of 9.1 percent. The United States has seen an average growth of just 1.7 percent.
The 21st Century will not be the American century if we don't change course. During the first decade of this century, we spent $5.9 trillion dollars on defense spending, much of it in Iraq and Afghanistan. During that same decade, China spent $1.1 trillion. Now, which Nations' power increased more during that period?
China is flexing muscles abroad not with shiny new weapon systems, but with their large bank account. China is now the second-largest economy in the world. And it continues to grow.
We are seeing our influence wane around the world not because we are short an aircraft carrier, but because some have begun to question American resolve, the ability of American political process to solve basic problems and to govern.
Meanwhile millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Last year I asked the Congressional Budget Office to prepare a report on income inequality in this country. The statistics are sobering. The top 1 percent of earners in the United States more than doubled their share of income in the past thirty years. The wealthiest fifth of the country earned more than the other four fifths combined.
These are only but a few of the great challenges we face at home. And to overcome these challenges we have to work together. To compete and win in today's world, we need to balance our budget, grow our economy, and invest in education and infrastructure. We can't afford another year of spending tens of billions of dollars on nation building overseas.
For the 21st Century to be the American century we are going to have make some changes. We need to bring our troops home from Afghanistan and focus on nation building here at home. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
Contact: Kate Downen 406-224-5056/Jennifer Donohue 202-224-2651/ Kathy Weber 406-329-7980
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