- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives opposing H.Con.Res. 55, which would withdraw American deployed to Iraq and Syria to combat ISIS, and reiterating his call for the House to pass a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF):
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in opposition to H. Con. Res. 55 and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
“Let me first say that I believe Congress needs to do its job and pass an AUMF, which is the authorization for the use of military force. We should have acted months ago. So this is the right message. But, with only the highest respect to my colleague from Massachusetts, I believe that withdrawal by a date certain at this time is the wrong policy.
“This measure would direct the President to remove all U.S. armed forces deployed to Iraq or Syria since August 7, 2014, except those needed to protect American diplomatic facilities and personnel.
“That’s no way to defeat ISIS or to help the people of Iraq and Syria. I cannot vote for a policy I do not support.
“However, I share the frustration voiced by Mr. McGovern, Ms. Lee, and many others.
“I have said time and time again that Congress should pass a new AUMF. We owe it to the American people. We should do our job. And we owe it to our men and women in uniform. Congressional inaction on an [AUMF] is inexcusable. Congress has had months to consider the President’s language. And it’s well past time we act.
“Right now, the Administration is using the resolution we passed after September 11th, 2001 as the legal justification to fight ISIS. This is deeply problematic. First of all, the 2001 AUMF has none of the limits many of us are seeking. The American people have no stomach for another large-scale, open-ended commitment of American troops in the Middle East. It was our disastrous intervention in Iraq last decade that set the stage for the rise of ISIS in the first place. This is a new challenge, and we need new parameters to define our mission and our goals.
“At the same time, using a 2001 authorization for a 2015 conflict sets a terrible precedent. What happens in five years when the next Administration does the same thing, and five years after that, and five years after that? We didn’t vote for perpetual war, and we need a new AUMF.
“So we cannot allow that outcome. With a new AUMF, I hope it will be a bipartisan effort. I hope it will be the hallmark of our work on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I commend my friend, Mr. McGovern, for taking a stand on this issue, and we’re in agreement that the United States must avoid another failed, open-ended war in the Middle East. But there is a role for the United States in this reason—in this region, and we should not just vote to withdraw. I believe that would be cutting off our nose despite our face.
“The United States has already made a difference by supporting the Iraqis and the Syrians who are fighting ISIS. It’s a difficult fight, but I don’t think we can walk away.
“With American leadership, we were able to prevent a wholesale slaughter of the Yazidi people. With American help, our Iraqi partners were able to maintain control of the Mosul Dam, which, if breached by ISIS, could have resulted in the death and displacement of up to two million people. With American assistance, the Iraqi Security Forces and the moderate Syrian opposition are taking back territory—too slowly, but they’re taking back territory—particularly in the South.
“The Foreign Affairs Committee just had a hearing, earlier this morning, and we saw horrific situations of children being gassed in Syria. There is no good side in Syria. We’ve got to somehow let the Free Syria Army or the rebels—the well-vetted, moderate rebels—we’ve got to help them. And that’s why I believe there is still a role for us to play. A precipitous withdrawal by turning our heads away because we are fed-up and disgusted I think is not the right move.
“So this fight’s far from over and the United States has a critical role to play. We need an authorization that defines a role for the United States—a limited role—and that’s the measure I will support.
“I again do want to thank Mr. McGovern for bringing this issue to the floor. He is a thoughtful, effective colleague and while I appreciate his resolution, I commend him for focusing this Congress on this important issue.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I reserve the balance of my time.”
June 17, 2015
- As Delivered –