Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
February 01, 2007
Senator Byrd: Stop Holding the Senate Hostage - Debate the Escalation of the War
WASHINGTON, D.C.... This afternoon, U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.,
announced his intention to offer binding legislation that would bring an end to the 2002
Iraq war resolution based on achievable conditions, not on calendar dates.
The Byrd legislation would make it clear that the U.S. military commitment to Iraq is not
open-ended and that the Congress must retake its war powers -- powers that were handed
away to presidents without any check or balance in the October 2002 use of force
Senator Byrd's remarks are below.
The verdict is in on the President's plan to send more American troops into Iraq. Sixtyeight
percent of Americans are opposed to it. Sixty-two percent of active-duty military
officers do not support it. Top military leaders have voiced scepticism about whether an
increase in troops will succeed in suppressing the sectarian violence that has consumed
Iraq. The evidence is in, and the voice of the American people is clear: it is time to turn
Unfortunately, this administration seems to have no intention of heeding that call. Last
week, the Vice President talked about the "enormous successes" that have been
accomplished in Iraq. Enormous successes. The Vice President's definition of enormous
success is apparently different than mine. The Vice President said that talk of failures and
blunders in Iraq was just "hogwash." And he asserted that, whatever Congress votes on
in relation to Iraq, "it won't stop us.î
That is a slap in the face to the American people. Our constituents voted for change in
the last election. They asked their elected representatives -- us -- to chart a new course in
Iraq. This administration continues to disregard the will of the American people, the
good of the nation, and the authority of the Constitution. They believe they can continue
to ignore the message that is coming from the American people loud and clear: "bring our
sons and daughters home!î
That is why the bipartisan resolutions that we will be debating are so important. We have
a duty, as the elected representatives of the people of the United States, to be their voices
and to speak the truth. The truth is that sending more American troops into Iraq would be
a continuation of the mistakes that brought us there in the first place. The truth is that
many of us, in both parties, deeply disagree with the President's decision to increase our
commitment in Iraq, rather than decrease it. The truth is that the American people are fed
up with having our soldiers caught in the crossfire of a civil war.
It is important to send that message from the people to the President. But it is not enough.
The American people are asking us to send a message, but they are also asking us for
answers: What is our strategy in Iraq? Why are we there? When can our sons and
daughters come home? This President has had almost four years to articulate answers to
those questions, and he has unfortunately failed at every opportunity. And so it falls to us
to find a way forward out of the mess he has created. That is why I will be introducing
within the coming days a resolution that is a new approach to the war: a resolution that is
fully supportive of our troops, while laying out clear benchmarks for concluding U.S.
military engagement in Iraq.
This administration has claimed that debating the President's plan will undermine the
troops. I say that's hogwash. Only 38% of active duty U.S. military forces support
sending more troops into Iraq. To imply that the American people and the American
troops are somehow incapable of hearing debate about this war is ridiculous. War and the
escalation of war is not something to be decided in some backroom corridor, far from the
light of day. We have a duty and a responsibility to deliberate, to discuss, and to offer
advice. That is the way democracy works, and that is the system established by our
Some have claimed that by putting forward these resolutions we are only offering
criticism, not alternatives. But criticism is only the first step: it is critical to send a
consensus message to the President that he is moving us in the wrong direction. The next
step is to show the President the right direction. That is why my resolution is so
important, and why we should be allowed to debate it and vote on it quickly: we must
show the President the way forward, in a binding resolution that cannot be ignored.
The American people want a fundamental change in the Administration's policies toward
Iraq. The people elected Congress to make those changes. We must demonstrate that the
Congress is prepared to take action to compel the President to create a strategy that is not
simply more of the same.
Mr. President, the resolution I will be introducing will do exactly that. This resolution
reflects the will of the American people that the war in Iraq must be brought to a close in
a responsible way. It will establish provisions to bring to a close U.S. military
engagement in Iraq based upon conditions, not dates. It will restore to Congress its
Constitutional war-making power by adding conditions that would terminate the original
2002 use of force resolution. The conditions can be summarized as follows: we have
achieved our objective, we are no longer needed, or we are no longer wanted in Iraq.
These are not irresponsible conditions that would prolong our involvement in Iraq, nor do
they require a chaotic or dangerous withdrawal of our troops. These are reasonable
conditions that, through the exercise of the Article I, Section 8 powers granted to the
Congress, set limits upon the Iraq war resolution, which currently has no sunset provision.
That war resolution will continue to be in effect in perpetuity if the Congress does not act.
That is an abdication of the responsibility of the Congress to be a steward of its
constitutional power to declare war. Additionally, as the bipartisan Iraq Study Group
concluded, a clear message must be sent to the Iraqi government that the U.S.
commitment to the war in Iraq is not open-ended. The Byrd resolution will point the way
toward concluding that commitment.
No Senator must set aside his or her own views of the war in order to support the Byrd
resolution. Those who support a rapid redeployment of our troops must realize that the
Congress must first reassert the powers vested in this body by Article I of the
Constitution. Those who have supported the war, but are now calling for benchmarks for
progress by the Iraqi government, should understand that there could be no clearer call for
benchmarks for progress than by writing into the law of the land the conditions under
which our presence in Iraq will end.
My approach is one that I believe should have wide bipartisan support. At the appropriate
time, I will make the necessary motions to place the Byrd joint resolution directly onto the
calendar, and I urge that the Senate schedule a debate on this proposal soon after this
body completes action on the non-binding resolutions. Although the President believes
he can act without the support of the people, the Congress must not submit to such hubris.
The work of the Congress must be the work of the people, and there is no more important
issue before our country today than finding a way out of the quagmire in Iraq.
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