Wes Hickman (202 224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864 250-1417)
– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today voted in support of the $87 billion supplemental appropriation request to pay for ongoing military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate passed the request 87-12 and will now go to conference with the House of Representatives.
“The brave men and women of our armed services are in Iraq and Afghanistan for a noble purpose,” said Graham. “They have liberated an oppressed people and are helping to establish security and freedom in their country. We must be sure to give our troops the tools they need to carry out their mission.”
Graham worked to include four important amendments to the Senate legislation.
- Graham, along with U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Ensign (R-NV), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Evan Bayh (D-IN) , pushed for and won a provision declaring $10 billion in reconstruction funds to be a loan. The loans will be forgiven if 90 percent of Iraq’s prewar debt, estimated to be between $100 billion to $130 billion, is forgiven by countries such as France, Germany and Russia.
- Graham introduced and passed an amendment rejecting arbitrary deadlines, proposed by French President Jacque Chirac, for American withdrawal from Iraq. As recently as September 16, the French government proposed that within two months all authority be turned over to the Iraqi people. The resolution says the U.S. will not turn transfer authority until the ratification of a new Iraqi constitution and democratic elections are held.
- Graham introduced and passed an amendment noting Operation Iraqi Freedom promotes the security of Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.
- Graham introduced and passed an amendment to improve health care coverage for members of the National Guard and Reserves. The Graham amendment allows unemployed reservists and guardsmen and those that are not eligible for health insurance from their employers to enroll fulltime in TRICARE; provides TRICARE coverage to all guardsmen and reservists once they receive orders to deploy, currently they don’t receive their benefits until they actually deploy; and allows all reservists and guardsmen to stay on TRICARE six months after deployment to ease the transition back to their private insurance.
“We are giving American lives and taxpayers money to bring freedom and security to Iraq,” said Graham. “I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the Iraqi people to repay some of the money we’re going to give them to rebuild their oil refineries, power plants and sewer systems. Over time, the revenue generated from these projects will make Iraq an economically stable country. Also, this amendment offers an incentive to the international community to forgive the loans Saddam Hussein amassed while he built lavish palaces for himself and abused the Iraqi people. It is a win for both the Iraqi people and the American people.”
“It would be irresponsible to follow the French proposition to turn back over to the Iraqi people the country while it is still in a state of transition,” said Graham. “We are training the Iraqi police. We are training the army. Schools are now open. There are a lot of good things going on, and Iraq is already a better place. The French position of just leaving within thirty days would undo the recent accomplishments.”
“Disposing of Saddam Hussein made the State of Israel a more secure place,” said Graham. “Saddam paid homicide bombers and their families to kill innocent Israeli citizens. He gave money to the master mind of the Achille Lauro hijacking, provided money to the Arab Liberation Front, whose goal was to push Israel into the sea, and he also launched 39 Scud missile attacks against the State of Israel. The Israeli and Palestinian people deserve to live side by side in peace. When Saddam left, there was one less person trying to destroy peace in the Middle East.”
“The TRICARE amendment demonstrates a growing commitment of the Senate to providing continuity of care for Guardsmen and Reservists,” said Graham. “The next step is to ensure that continuity for all members of the ready reserve. We need to make sure that when the total force is called up, the total force is ready to go, fully trained, and medically cleared. The sacrifice they make to defend our freedom deserves to be rewarded. This is an extremely significant step toward repaying their efforts; however, there is more to be done and more to come.”