- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

House Republicans plan a vote today on a resolution that praises yesterday’s elections in Iraq and rejects timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops.

“Setting an artificial timetable for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq, or immediately terminating their deployment in Iraq and redeploying them elsewhere in the region, is fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq,” the resolution says in part.

Last month, Republicans forced a vote on another resolution calling for immediate withdrawal, based loosely on one written by Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat. That resolution failed by a 403-3 vote, with most Democrats joining all Republicans present in voting against an immediate pullout.

The latest resolution calls the Iraqi elections a “crucial victory” for Iraq, saying the vote would not have been possible without the presence of U.S. troops.

“We hope the Democrats will join us to support U.S. troops fighting for victory in Iraq and to celebrate the successful Iraqi elections,” said Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

Democrats were not pleased with the resolution.

“Rather than have a real debate on Iraq honoring the American troops and people, the Republicans have resorted to yet another political stunt,” said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

President Bush this week finished a series of four speeches defending U.S. operations in Iraq and acknowledging mistakes in intelligence leading up to the war, but said the invasion was the right decision.

The debate ignited last month when the Senate approved a resolution that called for the administration to change direction in Iraq. The resolution was adopted by a 79-19 vote.

Soon after, Mr. Murtha, a decorated Marine combat veteran and the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, introduced a resolution calling for redeployment to begin immediately. He said he expected it would take about six months and that a reaction force should remain in the region for any contingencies.

House Republicans instead put a resolution on the floor that called for immediate withdrawal, then proceeded to defeat it handily, which they said was meant to squash talk of withdrawal and send a message both to U.S. troops and to Iraqis that Congress stood behind the mission.

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