House postures against Iraq escalation


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

February 16, 2007

House Passes Iraq Resolution With 17 Votes From G.O.P.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 ‹ After four days of emotional debate over the extent of 
presidential powers in wartime and the proper role of Congress, the House of 
Representatives adopted a resolution today denouncing President Bush¹s plan to 
send more American troops to Iraq.

The 246 to 182 vote in favor of the non-binding but nevertheless important 
measure set the stage for a crucial Senate debate on Saturday on how to debate 
the administration¹s Iraq policy, or indeed whether it should be debated at all.

There had been virtually no doubt about the outcome in the House today, given 
the Democratic majority in the chamber and the fact that a significant number of
Republicans had also signaled their backing for the resolution, which expresses 
support for American troops but not for their commander-in-chief.

Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution. Two Democrats, Jim Marshall of 
Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi, voted against it. Mr. Marshall is the 
son and grandson of Army generals and was wounded in combat in Vietnam, 
according to The Almanac of American Politics. Mr. Taylor has a generally 
conservative voting record and is ³strongly pro-defense,² the almanac says. Six 
representatives cast no vote.

Before the votes were counted, Republican leaders were undeterred by the 
likelihood that they would be defeated. ³The Œno¹ votes are the right votes,² 
said Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip.

The Republican minority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, warned that the 
resolution, while symbolic, charted ³a very treacherous path² that could lead to
cutting off money for the American campaign.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that the time had come to give 
American troops ³a course of action that is worthy of their sacrifice,² by 
opposing Mr. Bush¹s plan to increase troop strength in Iraq. As many of her 
Democratic colleagues did, Ms. Pelosi said the war in Iraq is not part of the 
battle against terrorism, but rather a distraction from it.

But Representative Peter King of New York, the ranking Republican on the 
Homeland Security Committee, said, ³This war in Iraq cannot be looked at in a 
vacuum,² and is indeed a theater in the war on terror.

One Democrat after another spoke in favor of a resolution, apparently headed for
passage, that criticizes Mr. Bush¹s decision to send more than 20,000 additional
troops, calling it part of a deeply flawed strategy that has stirred more 
violence in the Middle East and damaged America¹s image.

And one Republican after another rose in opposition, accusing the Democrats of 
rushing to judgment without giving the president¹s new security plan a chance to
work and warning that a vote for the resolution would embolden America¹s enemies
and damage the morale of its fighting men and women.

Despite the emotions on both sides, there were moments of agreement. Ms. Pelosi 
drew sustained applause when she said that everyone in the chamber prarised the 
valor and sacrifice of Americans serving in Iraq.

That the two sides saw the resolution in starkly different terms was reflected 
in the remarks of two representatives from New York State.

Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from the western part of the state, said the Bush 
administration¹s Iraq campaign had been marked by ³mismanagement and 
misinformation,² and that United States forces had been given an impossible 
mission, to ³find a military solution to a political problem.²

It is high time, Ms. Slaughter said, for Congress to provide ³a clear, 
unambiguous answer to the most important issue facing the country,² and formally
repudiate Mr. Bush¹s policy.

But Vito Fossella, a Republican whose district includes Staten Island and part 
of Brooklyn, said the resolution would sound ³a clarion call of retreat² and set
the nation¹s foes to wondering where the United States will retreat next.

³You cannot surrender the battlefield and win the war,² said Mr. Fossella, who 
spoke immediately after Ms. Slaughter in the debate.

With Democrats holding 233 seats in the House, to 201 for the Republicans (one 
seat became vacant this week with the death of Charles Norwood, a Georgia 
Republican), the outcome today was widely expected.

Unlike the Senate, the House does not operate under rules that allow a 
sufficiently large minority to hold off votes indefinitely through a filibuster.
The Senate, where a resolution was stalled last week by parliamentary 
maneuvering, will convene in a rare Saturday session this weekend, when the 
Democratic leaders hope to force a debate on the resolution.

Some supporters of the House resolution hope, and opponents fear, that today¹s 
symbolic vote ‹ such resolutions are not laws and have no practical effect ‹ 
will open the way for more drastic steps to curb the president¹s power by 
attaching restrictions to spending bills.

By 11 a.m., 345 of the 434 House members had spoken in 44 hours of debate over 
four days, C-Span reported. Democrats declared again and again that a vote 
against the president¹s policy is not a vote against American troops, while many
Republicans said the opposite.

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California and one of the harshest 
critics of the administration, said that Mr. Bush and his aides had bungled the 
war and lost the peace.

³We cannot achieve the illusions of the Bush administration,² Mr. Waxman said, 
asserting that the entire Middle East ³threatens to be engulfed by the forces we
have unleashed.²

But a California Republican, Elton Gallegly, said the United States must 
persevere in Iraq because ³we¹re at war with Islamic jihadists.² Failure in 
Iraq, he said, would give terrorists a sanctuary like the one they enjoyed in 
Afghanistan before the Taliban was toppled.

Democrats said the United States had already done all it could in Iraq. David Wu
of Oregon said Iraq had been eliminated as a threat to the United States; now, 
he said, ³we referee a civil war between the people of Iraq,² part of a conflict
that could last ³another thousand years.²

But Representative Barbara Cubin, the Wyoming Republican, said Mr. Bush¹s 
strategy was political and economic as well as military, and should be given a 
chance. ³This resolution sends a dangerous message to the terrorists in Iraq,² 
Ms. Cubin said. ³They have succeeded in dividing us.²

Some Democrats spoke of a different message, one delivered last November. ³The 
American people have demanded a change in direction,² said Joseph Crowley, whose
district covers part of the Bronx and Queens.

Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina was one of those Republicans who 
broke with his party leaders and voted for the resolution. He said he had 
concluded that the conflict in Iraq was a civil war, and that a continued 
American presence there ³makes no sense at all.²

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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