- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

The House yesterday overwhelmingly passed a bill prohibiting permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, a symbolic measure Speaker Nancy Pelosi used to revive the war issue now that the Democrat-led Congress has suspended the push for a troop pullout.

“The Democratic Congress will go on record — every day if necessary — to register a judgment in opposition to the course of action that the president is taking in Iraq,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.

Republicans supported the measure, which passed 399-24, but called it a political stunt because the United States does not establish permanent military installations in foreign countries but locates bases by agreement with host countries.

“Instead of wasting time with meaningless stunts and undermining our troops overseas through harmful rhetoric, members of Congress should be united and focused on preventing al Qaeda from establishing permanent bases in Iraq and using them to stage terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.

The bill was the first in a series of antiwar votes Mrs. Pelosi will call before the August recess, with bills that would close the detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or limit the length of troop deployments likely next week.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and outspoken war critic, is expected to propose an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill next week that would mandate a troop redeployment start by the end of the year but would not set a deadline for a complete withdrawal.

Democrats failed repeatedly to force Mr. Bush to accept a troop-withdrawal timetable. Last week, they suspended the effort to legislate an end to the war until after a progress report by military commanders due in September.

Mr. Boehner and 171 of his Republican colleagues voted for the base-banning bill, which also barred the United States from controlling Iraqi oil reserves.

Voting against the bill would have opened Republicans to criticism that they wanted permanent bases and to take over Iraq’s oil fields.

“Permanent bases is not something that is contemplated by anyone,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

The author of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee, said it sent a message to Iraqis that United States does not intend to occupy their country indefinitely.

“Putting Congress on record with this clear statement helps take the targets off our troops’ backs and it support our goals of handing over responsibility for security and public safety to Iraqi forces,” the California Democrat said. “The perception that the United States plans to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq strengthens the insurgency and it fuels the violence against our troops.”