U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, criticized the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq war and outlined proposals by the new Democratic majority in Congress during a forum on March 2 at the Soda Center.
"The United States has borrowed $600 billion for Iraq war costs since 2002," Tauscher told the audience of students, faculty and staff. "If you are under 30, you will be paying for that, and it will stop you from building roads and fixing Medicare or Social Security."
Since 1997, Tauscher has represented California's 10th District, which includes Saint Mary's and most of Contra Costa and Solano counties. She is on the House Armed Services committee, chairs the strategic force subcommittee and is also on the transportation committee and water resources subcommittee.
Tauscher said she is behind a proposed House resolution revoking the 2002 Congressional authorization for use of force, reducing U.S. troop presence from 125,000 to 20,000 and requiring the Iraqi government to accept more responsibility for securing its own country.
Noting that Democratic leaders oppose the president's proposed troop increase, she said Congress would not allowing criticisms of "micromanagement" to stop it from exercising oversight as an equal branch of government.
"With the Bush Administration's horrible record managing the war, it is well past the time to take over," she said. "We want to stabilize Iraq, but adding more troops will not accomplish that. We want our troops home sooner and more money back here to invest in you."
While acknowledging that Iraq is the main topic of the discussion in Washington, Tauscher also talked about domestic legislation from the Democrats' first 100 hours in power, including a raise in the minimum wage, increasing Pell Grants and cutting interest rates on student loans.
Remarking that January marked the end of a "rubber-stamp Congress" under Republican control, Tauscher said that she recognized that cooperation with sympathetic Republicans is necessary to move forward on certain objectives. She cited her leadership of the New Democrat Coalition, 63 representatives from her party whom she described as moderates willing to be pragmatic in the pursuit of progressive policies.
"You have to make accommodations to accomplish things in Washington," said Tauscher. "If we just stand up and say no all the time, the government itself cannot stand."
During a question-and-answer session, Tauscher commented on issues ranging from U.S. relations with Iraq's neighbors to flood protection in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta.
Responding to news that Iran and Syria are interested in participating in talks on Iraq, she said that the United States should be willing to consider diplomatic engagement with these regional players on some issues even when they don't see eye-to-eye on others.
"You don't get far without engagement, although engagement is not endorsement." Tauscher noted. "We talk to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan about the Middle East. We should be willing to talk to others as well."
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