WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., voted Tuesday in favor of a supplemental spending plan for 2005 in a show of support for America’s mission in Iraq. But he voiced strong opposition against anti-immigration provisions contained in the legislation. Lieberman said a portion of the bill, known as the Real ID Act and added to the legislation by the House in conference, would repeal identification security provisions endorsed by the 9/11 Commission and enacted last year as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act.
“Congress has already enacted the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission regarding stricter standards for identification cards, including drivers’ licenses,” Lieberman said. “The Real ID Act would replace those standards with rigid and unworkable federal mandates on state governments that are primarily intended to punish undocumented aliens, and will be less effective in helping prevent terrorism. The state officials who will have to administer these new rules don’t support them and neither should Congress.” The Real ID Act also includes punitive immigration provisions that would make it harder for people to gain asylum from repressive regimes and would deny habeas corpus to those slated for deportation. These provisions were rejected by Congress last year. Lieberman, who has just returned from travel in Iraq, said he would vote for the spending bill, however, because he believes “a sustained and visible American commitment” to Iraq is critical at this time. “There’s no doubt that the recent spate of suicide bombings has riveted our attention and made us wonder if we will ever see an Iraq where its people can live not just in freedom – but in security as well,” Lieberman said. “But we cannot allow the day-to-day political frustrations and the continuing violence by the terrorists to limit our appreciation of the historic transformation underway.” Following is Lieberman’s complete statement, as prepared for delivery: Mr. President: I rise today to speak about the supplemental spending bill to be voted on this afternoon. Although I intend to vote for the supplemental spending bill, I wish to note my strong objections to House provisions known as the “Real ID” Act that have been included in the conference report. The Real ID Act will repeal ID security provisions enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support last year at the urging of the 9/11 Commission, and replace them with rigid and unworkable federal mandates on state government for the issuance of drivers’ licenses. The conference report also includes punitive immigration provisions that we rejected last year, and that have no place on an emergency spending bill. Our nation is safer if we continue to implement the protections we passed just last December, rather than allow an ideological debate over immigration policy to derail initiatives vital to the war against terrorism. But I have just returned from Iraq and must set aside my deep opposition to “Real ID” because I believe we have reached a tipping point in Iraq that requires a sustained and visible American commitment at this crucial point in time. There’s no doubt that the recent spate of suicide bombings has riveted our attention and made us wonder if we will ever seen an Iraq where its people can live not just in freedom – but in security as well. But we cannot allow the day-to-day political frustrations and the continuing violence by the terrorists to limit our appreciation of the historic transformation underway. While I was in Iraq, I had lunch with the new Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani in his home. I have known Talabani for years and have deep respect and admiration for him and his courageous work as a Kurdish leader. But to see him sitting there as the new President of the nation – the democratically chosen successor to the tyrant Saddam Hussein – was a very emotional experience for me. The image was unthinkable just a few years ago. Now Talabani sat in front of me as one of the visible symbols of the enormous transformation we have brought about in Iraq and the chance we have to help build a free nation that could become a model for the rest of the Arab and Islamic world. I was impressed by the quality of other Iraqi leaders as well. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who I had never met before, exceeded my wildest expectations. He was thoughtful, strong and clear when he wanted to be. And graciously vague when he needed to be. I pressed him on Iraq’s relationship with Iran and he gave a reasoned, reassuring, and credible answer. Time will tell but I left feeling reassured. While the increase in suicide bombings in Iraq causes grave concern, our military leaders told me that the makeup of the enemy has changed and that could be a good sign in the long run. For some time the military has been saying that the majority of the enemy fighters came from former regime elements, complemented by a minority of foreign fighters associated with Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda,. But they now believe that the number of native Iraqi fighters has dropped significantly. If this is true, it is a huge development. It means the election and the negotiations with the Sunnis to enter the government are creating a tipping point in which the supporters of the former regime want to get on the winning side. We should exploit this moment and act aggressively with the Iraqi government to bring them over – thus isolating the foreign fighters and making it harder for them to move freely and resupply themselves. We should also move aggressively to close the border with Syria to stop the flow of terrorists and further help bring stability to Iraq. Operation Matador, now in its third day in Qaim near the Syrian border, is the kind of sustained military effort we need. Of the American military, I can only say that they are the most impressive, innovative, and inspirational part of this story. Their morale is high. They believe in their mission. And they feel victory is certain. It just made me proud as an American to see them in action. Our engagement in Iraq is crucial and in the best bipartisan traditions of American foreign policy that runs from Democrat Woodrow Wilson through Republican President George Bush. I urge my colleagues to vote yes and I yield the floor.