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Congress takes key votes on national security

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By Congressman Tom Perriello

 

Last week, the Congress took up several key votes relating to national security.

I joined with others in the House of Representatives to condemn the regime in Iran for its repressive crackdown on non-violent, pro-democracy demonstrators. As brave citizens risked their lives in the streets of Tehran, the U.S. Congress acted swiftly to let the world and those brave individuals know that we stand with those who stand for freedom.

Second, I voted for the war supplemental appropriations bill to fund our troops and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though the challenges to success remain severe in these violent areas, we are making progress in these battles, and these strategies deserve the bi-partisan support they received. Unfortunately, members of both parties tried to politicize and plus up a supplemental that should have been solely about the troops. For example, I voted against additional funding for the International Monetary Fund. There is an outstanding team of military and diplomatic leaders focused on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that provides a promising opportunity to refocus and reinforce our security situation in one of the most dangerous spots on the planet. At the end of the day, this bill was a question of funding our military operations, the Generals said they needed it, and I voted to support it.

Third, there were a series of votes relating to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Most of these votes were about politics and not policy. Serious security experts and members of both parties agreed on a provision that would require the President to present a plan before spending any resources to close the facility and process detainees; I supported this provision. There was a separate highly-politicized vote this week to prevent the Executive Branch from even offering a plan to Congress, and I voted against that measure at the urging of military experts. This situation has no easy solution and requires us to plan before we act. 

Fourth, we passed landmark legislation to hold Pakistan accountable for its track-record of passing taxpayer dollars through to some of our nation’s enemies or their allies. The blind eye that both President Bush and President Clinton turned towards Pakistan’s complex relationship with insurgents has created a major vulnerability in our security in the region and around the globe. This legislation makes significant progress towards putting the United States back in the driver’s seat in this relationship through a more robust set of tools for engagement. Given the presence of Al Qaeda and of nuclear weapons within Pakistan’s borders, there are few places more important for us to correct past security and intelligence failures, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.

These national security votes will give our troops and Generals the support they deserve and need for victory. Meanwhile, we must also fortify our economic situation on the domestic front. There were two major votes this week on parts of the President’s new budget. I voted for one of these bills related to law enforcement, science and education, and voted against the budget relating to Congressional Operations. I believe that we need to balance our budget, and that must start with how we operate our own offices in Washington. There is plenty of belt-tightening that can be done in Washington.

Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.