- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Democratic-led House yesterday voted against President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, a nonbinding but symbolic action that Republicans said is defeatist and a step backward in the war on terrorism.

“Today we have had an historic victory for the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who voted against the war in 2002.

The 97-word resolution, which opposes sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, passed 246-182. The vote was preceded by 44 hours and 55 minutes of debate over four days. Seventeen Republicans voted for the measure, and two Democrats voted against it.

The president’s spokesman said the resolution won’t change Mr. Bush’s plan, adding that early signs of its success would leave those who voted for the resolution having to explain themselves later.

“Members of Congress have taken their own gamble here. They’re gambling on failure — some members, at least,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

The White House is downplaying yesterday’s House vote — and one planned for today in the Senate on another Iraq war resolution — arguing that the more important votes were last month’s Senate confirmation of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to command U.S. forces in Iraq andan upcoming vote on an emergency spending bill to fund the war on terrorism.

Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are vowing to defeat Democratic plans to begin slowly choking off funding for the war. Democrats intend to introduce legislation next month that they hope will limit the president’s use of money in the supplemental war-funding request.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the resolution “is clearly the first step toward defunding the troops and the war against Islamic totalitarianism.”

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, said Thursday that he hopes to require certification for adequate training and equipment for any deployed troops, and to place caps on how long those troops can serve and be enlisted.

“They won’t be able to do the deployment,” said Mr. Murtha, who voted in favor of authorizing the war.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, denounced the plan “to eliminate funding for our troops that are in harm’s way.”

Democrats insist the best way to “support the troops” is to take them out of what they say is a civil war in Iraq.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, who voted for the war, said it “has weakened our fight against al Qaeda. In fact the war has enhanced the group’s recruitment.”

Republicans insist that Iraq is a hard but necessary fight against terrorists and insurgents backed by Iran and Syria, and that the conflict is part of the country’s broader fight against terrorism.

The four-day debate, in which 392 of 434 House lawmakers participated, came to a dramatic conclusion yesterday afternoon.

Republicans sent Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for almost seven years, to the House floor as their last speaker.

“Let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Mr. Johnson, 76. “We must not cut off funding for the troops.”

Republicans gave Mr. Johnson a two-minute standing ovation and were joined by the smattering of Democrats in the chamber.

Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri closed the debate for the Democrats. Mr. Skelton, who voted to authorize the war, said that sending more troops “will embroil [them] more deeply in a sectarian conflict [that] cannot be won militarily.”

Immediately after the resolution passed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sent out a release that said the Senate “must join the House and vote on the escalation.”

Mr. Reid has taken the unusual step of bringing senators in for a weekend vote today on closing off amendments to an anti-surge resolution identical to the House bill.

Democrats say Republicans are avoiding an up-or-down vote on the surge, but Republicans say they want to vote on alternative resolutions, one of which would guarantee no funding cuts for the military.

“Senate Republicans want a vote in support of funding for the troops,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who said he expects to defeat Mr. Reid’s attempt to stifle debate on other resolutions.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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