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(crossposted on Blue Mass Group)

Update: Video of the speech is now up on The Huffington Post.

I am on my way to the National Press Club in Washington in a few minutes to speak about a new bill. If passed, it will prohibit escalation in Iraq without express Congressional approval of a plan and budget.

President Bush owes the American people a clear explanation about what he's trying to accomplish in Iraq, and that's why I'm introducing legislation that will force him to explain himself.

In October 2002, Members of Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I voted against that resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.

The American people know, and our generals agree, that a military escalation in Iraq would not strengthen our national security – instead it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. More than 3,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and more than 22,000 have been wounded. It’s time to get this right.

Here's the text of the legislation:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1. Prohibition on use of funds for escalation of United States forces in Iraq.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be obligated or expended by the United States Government to increase the number of United States forces in Iraq above the level for such forces which existed as of January 1, 2007, without a specific authorization of Congress by law for such an increase.

Some have claimed that the president has the authority to escalate this war without the consent of House and Senate. They dismiss the possibility that Congress has a role to play stopping this president from leading us further into the quicksand in Iraq.

That may have been true when Republicans were in charge, but people elected Democrats to show some backbone. Congress is the voice of the American people, and it’s time those voices are heard in this debate.

I had planned to discuss the minimum wage, health care and college affordability at this speech today, but those issues will have to wait for another day. We are at a grave crossroads and the moment demands action.

My staff will update this post with video of the speech when it is available. Below you will also find a longer message I sent to supporters earlier this morning.

I cannot stay to talk now, but please leave your comments and questions. After the speech I will spend some time with them. I am interested in your reaction to the bill.

Thank you.

Dear Friend,

If you care about changing direction in Iraq, now is the moment to act.

George Bush will speak to the nation tomorrow, and every indication is that he will announce an escalation of the war in Iraq.  Such a military escalation would not strengthen our national security -- instead it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future.

Thankfully, escalation is not President Bush's decision to make. He must have the people's consent.

For too long Congress refused to hold the White House accountable for its failed policies in Iraq. It endangered the lives of our brave young men and women in uniform for a civil war that has no military solution.

No more. Democrats swept the November elections because Americans wanted George Bush's policies challenged by the branch of government constitutionally charged with representing the people.

I'm headed to the National Press Club right now, where I will announce legislation that will prevent any further escalation in Iraq until two important things happen: the president presents a plan for success and Congress approves it.

One misguided politician cannot simply decide to drop tens of thousands more troops into the middle of a civil war. As Speaker Pelosi said on Sunday, "If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it."

Tell the president that we will not allow an escalation in Iraq without the people's consent -- support this legislation now:

One key fact even George Bush cannot ignore: Congress never authorized what's happening in Iraq now.

In 2002, the Bush Administration's case for war focused on Saddam's supposed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al Qaeda.  In October of the same year Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war.  I voted against the resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.

In 2007, Saddam Hussein is dead. Weapons of mass destruction were never found -- nor was any evidence that Saddam and al Qaeda were working together.

The 2002 authorization for the use of force has nothing to do with today's reality. Back then it was simply bad policy. Today, when it comes to escalation, it is obsolete.

A serious escalation of the war requires the people's consent. Our Commander in Chief has shown that he is seriously out of touch.  He has ignored the reality that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war.  When military generals spoke out against escalation, he replaced them.  When voters clearly demanded an end to the war, he decided to escalate instead.

Never has America's system of checks and balances been so threatened, and never has the courage to act been more important.

Escalating the war in Iraq is not President Bush's decision alone.  He must ask for the people's consent -- and Congressional approval is the only way he can get it.

Please add your name to the list of Americans who demand a voice in the debate over escalation:

My legislation is simple: it states that any substantial new commitment in Iraq requires a plan from the administration and explicit authorization from Congress.

Whether you believe that escalation would be a grave mistake, or whether you're part of the dwindling minority willing to increase the scale of this misguided adventure, it would be irresponsible to continue to issue the president a blank check.

We must have a full debate about the course ahead. Senators and Representatives should have a vote on whether the president may spend more money and risk more lives for an expanded operation in Iraq.

If George Bush wants to ignore the advice of the military and the findings of the Iraq Study Group, he's going to have to make his case and get the consent of the people through their elected representatives.

Iraq has become George Bush's Vietnam, and it's up to you and me to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself any longer. Please sign our petition supporting this important legislation:

The Iraqi people need to take responsibility for their own future.

But our only hope for change over there is if we, the American people, take control of our own destiny here at home.

Thank you.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy


Originally posted to Senator Edward M Kennedy on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 08:43 AM PST.

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