Iraq War Resolution Debate: US House Readies for Fight

A marathon debate is set to begin on Tuesday in the US Congress, as the House of Representatives considers a non-binding resolution that rejects President Bush’s increase in the number of US troops in Iraq. The debate is expected to continue throughout the week, with the House due to vote on the resolution on Friday.

Unveiled on Monday, the anti-surge resolution is co-sponsored by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

The resolution is brief and its language simple, crafted to express support for the US troops in Iraq and maximize the number of Republicans who will support it:

“Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.” 

Although it is non-binding and will not block funding for the recently announced troop surge, passage of the resolution – especially if a significant Republican contingent supports it –  would be a major embarrassment for President Bush.

Given the overwhelming rejection of the Iraq war by US voters in November, which dumped scores of Republicans from public office and put Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress, many Republicans are carefully weighing their options.

“What the American people want to know is – Does their member of Congress support the president’s proposed escalation or do they not?” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Anticipating dozens of GOP defections, House Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has gone on the offense. “This resolution is the first step in the Democrats’ plan to cut off funding for American troops who are in harm’s way, and their leaders have made this abundantly clear,” he said. Republican talking points distributed to House members further warned that such a “non-binding resolution weakens morale” and “gives comfort to the enemy.”

“I’m just not convinced that deploying 20,000 additional troops is going to resolve anything favorable for us,” said Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.). “We lost our majority in the Congress last November primarily because of the issue of the Iraq war.”

House Democrats moved to introduce the resolution after Senate debate on the Iraq war stalled last week due to partisan bickering over debate procedures. The House majority party has greater control over what measures are put to the vote, and to avoid a similar stalemate, House Democratic leaders have restricted members to a single vote, which effectively bars any amendments or alternative resolutions.

“This week, at long last, the House of Representatives will have an honest and open debate on Iraq where all voices will be heard,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Every Member of the House will have an opportunity to vote on a bipartisan resolution that will commend our brave men and women in uniform … and will express our strong disapproval of the President’s proposal for an escalation of our military involvement in Iraq.”

With each of the House’s 435 members and five delegates expected to use their five minutes to speak on the issue, the debate is expected to take 36 hours and is likely to be intense. The resolution is expected to pass on Friday with overwhelming Democratic support, as well as a significant bloc of votes from Republicans seeking to distance themselves from President Bush and the deeply unpopular war in Iraq.

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