The House yesterday voted against setting timetables for withdrawing troops from Iraq, marking the second time in recent weeks Republicans have forced a vote on U.S. policy in Iraq.
Taken together with last month’s House vote against immediate withdrawal, the two resolutions were meant to show the troops they have the support of Congress and to force Democrats to take a position.
“They point to the war’s costs, its difficulties and our setbacks and despite the catastrophic consequences of failure, call for an immediate retreat and surrender,” said Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. “Not us.”
The resolution passed 279-109 with 59 Democrats joining Republicans in favor, 108 Democrats and an independent voting against it and 32 Democrats and two Republicans voting present.
Democrats said Republicans only wanted to force a partisan vote.
“Once again the Republican majority brings to the House floor a divisive resolution to denounce those who disagree,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
The resolution calls Thursday’s election a “crucial victory” for Iraq and says the vote would not have been possible without the presence of U.S. troops.
It also puts the House on record against timetables, calling them “fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq.”
Republicans blocked Democrats’ own resolution, which would have praised Iraqis and the troops without referring to victory, the Republican-written resolution uses the word seven times. Democrats said by refusing to debate their amendment Republicans ruined what could have been bipartisan congratulations for the Iraqis.
“It is a sad day indeed when the Iraqi people have to teach the United States Congress a lesson in democracy,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat.
Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who ignited the discussion a month ago when he proposed immediately beginning to withdraw troops, compared Iraq’s election with one in South Vietnam in 1967, a month after he himself returned from one of his combat tours as a Marine in Vietnam.
“The war in Vietnam raged for another seven years, and over 38,000 more American were killed,” he said in a letter to colleagues.
He drew condemnation from Republicans for sending out a fundraising e-mail for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee yesterday based on his stance.
Democratic leaders were divided on yesterday’s vote with Mrs. Pelosi opposing it, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois voting present and Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, voting for it.
Republicans said the troops themselves are calling for the nation to remain engaged.
Rep. Geoff Davis, Kentucky Republican, visited troops at Walter Reed Army Hospital on Thursday and said it was “humbling” to hear their continued commitment to the mission.
One sergeant told him they followed last month’s debate on withdrawal and “some of the negative comments that implied failure in the mission were taken very personally by he and his fellow soldiers.”
Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, read on the House floor the names of seven troops from his district who died in Iraq: Marine Lance Cpls. Matthew R. Smith and Scott Zubowski and Army soldiers Pvt. Shawn D. Pahnke, Spc. Chad L. Keith, Staff Sgt. Frederick L. Miller Jr., Sgt. Robert E. Colvill Jr. and Spc. Raymond L. White.
“These seven men didn’t leave their posts, and this Congress won’t either,” he said.