Iraq Vote: Sen. Menendez Helps in Passage of Bill with Deadline for Withdrawal of Troops

Iraq Vote: Sen. Menendez Helps in Passage of Bill with Deadline for Withdrawal of Troops

Supplemental appropriations bill on its way to president's desk, also includes provisions for vets health care, SCHIP and chem security

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today voted in favor of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, which includes a deadline as a goal to withdraw American troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008. The bill, which was approved by the House yesterday, gained Senate passage today by a 51-46 vote and is now on its way to the president's desk.

Menendez spoke strongly today in favor of bringing American troops home.

"By passing this bill, we get the wheels turning toward the best possible strategy for success: bringing our troops home and working on a political solution in Iraq," said Menendez. "The Bush administration has tried to defame this bill. This isn't about surrender, this is about success.

"What we have passed is the definition of supporting the troops. At once, we are ensuring they are equipped and prepared to defend themselves, we are moving them out of another country's bloody civil war, and we are providing care that has been lacking for those who return home injured."

President Bush has threatened to veto this bill if passed, and today Menendez urged him not to do so.

"This bill reflects the realities on the ground and the will of the American people," said Menendez. "The president can ensure that our troops are prepared to defend themselves and are transitioned out of the civil war in Iraq if he signs the bill. I urge him to listen to the American people and do so."

Menendez also lauded other components in the bill, including veterans health care funding, money for a low-income children's health care program that he has championed and provisions for chemical security.

On veterans health care:

"The Walter Reed scandal showed the lack of readiness for the tens of thousands of our troops who have returned home with serious, and in many cases permanent, injuries. That is not how a grateful nation should treat its soldiers. This Congress under new leadership has acted quickly to take care of our troops."

On SCHIP:

"I am proud to help lead the effort to at least temporarily avert a shortfall in health insurance for children who need it the most. This program is especially beneficial to children and families in New Jersey, and will continue to work to solidify it in the long term."

On chemical security:

"If states are willing to get tougher on chemical plant security than the federal government, it makes sense to let them protect their citizens. I certainly do not want to see our strong security laws in New Jersey overtaken by weaker federal ones. I am proud to have worked with my New Jersey colleague, Senator Lautenberg, on this provision, and I applaud him for ensuring that it was included in the final bill."

The Supplemental Appropriations bill includes the following measures:

Military

"$100 billion for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan;

"$1 billion increase for equipment for the National Guard and Reserve;

"$1.1 billion to provide housing servicemen and servicewomen;

"$3 billion for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP) to protect soldiers from deadly roadside bombs;

"nearly $3 billion to help reform the veteran's system struggling to take care of the returning wounded; and

"$900 million to research and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, two of the most critical issues facing wounded soldiers.

Low-income children's health care

"More than $650 million in emergency funding for the SCHIP children's health care program - funding Menendez helped secure that will help 500,000 children in New Jersey's SCHIP program.

Security

"Permission for states with stronger standards to protect chemical security plants than the federal government to avoid preemption of those standards;

"$2.25 billion in homeland security initiatives, including mass transit security, explosives detection equipment at airports, port security, and other measures included in the 9/11 bill that has passed Senate.

Other issues

"$6.9 billion for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives more than a year after the storms hit; and

"Funding for pandemic flu preparations and low-income home energy assistance.

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