- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The House spurned calls for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq in a late-night vote forced by Republicans that Democrats vociferously denounced as politically motivated.

“To cut and run would invite terrorism into our back yards, and no one wants to see troops fighting terrorism on American soil,” Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said after the House, as he intended, rejected a Republican-written resolution for immediate withdrawal.

The vote, held late Friday night as lawmakers rushed toward a two-week Thanksgiving break, was 403-3.

Democrats accused Republicans of orchestrating a political stunt that prohibited thoughtful debate on the issue — and six of them voted “present” rather than yes or no.

Those voting against the measure included Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the Democratic hawk whose call Thursday for pulling out troops set off a nasty, personal debate over the war.

“Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on our present course,” Mr. Murtha said.

He said the Republican resolution was not the thoughtful approach he had suggested to bring the troops home in six months.

The House voted in a week that when the Republican-controlled Senate defeated a Democratic push for President Bush to lay out a timetable for withdrawal. Instead, senators approved a statement that 2006 should be a significant year when conditions are created for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.

“Congress in strong, bipartisan fashion rejected the call to cut and run,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan, traveling with Mr. Bush in Asia, said.

Earlier Friday, the president called an immediate troop withdrawal “a recipe for disaster.”

Mr. Murtha, a Marine Corps veteran decorated for combat service in Vietnam and widely respected among peers, issued his call for a troop withdrawal at a press conference Thursday. In little more than 24 hours, Mr. Hastert and Republicans decided to put the question to the House.

Republicans hoped to place Democrats in an unappealing position — either supporting a withdrawal that critics said would be precipitous or opposing it and angering voters who want a quick end to the conflict. They also hoped the vote could restore Republican momentum on an issue — the war — that has indicated plummeting public support in recent weeks.

Democrats said it was a sham and quickly decided to vote against the resolution in an attempt to drain it of significance.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the resolution vote was not a stunt. “This is not an attack on an individual. This is a legitimate question.”

Three Democrats, Jose E. Serrano of New York, Robert Wexler of Florida and Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia, voted for withdrawal. The six voting “present”: Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington; Jerrold Nadler, Maurice D. Hinchey and Major R. Owens of New York; Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts and William Lacy Clay of Missouri.

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