- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The House of Representatives this week will engage in a rare election-year debate on the Iraq war, with Republicans hoping to showcase the good news on the ground and Democrats fractured on whether the United States should begin withdrawing troops.

Lawmakers are tentatively scheduled to begin debating the Republican-authored resolution Thursday. A vote on the measure, called “Declaring that the United States will prevail in the global war on terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary,” is slated for Friday.

“There are clear differences between Republicans and Democrats on how best to confront the global war on terror,” said Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, who pushed getting the resolution on the floor.

Mr. Boehner said the debate will address the question of whether the United States defeats or retreats.

“It will be instructional and educational for the public,” Mr. Boehner said, and will allow members to highlight “success stories that no one ever hears about.”

However, some Democrats attacked the resolution as not really allowing for a genuine discussion of the issues, since Republicans wrote it and today will set parameters for debate.

“We promised and owe the American people a focused and dedicated debate about our policy and the future of American commitment in Iraq,” Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri wrote yesterday in a letter to Mr. Boehner.

Mr. Skelton, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said the resolution fails to provide such a forum. He said he was “distressed” the substance of the measure primarily focuses on the war on terrorism, with references to Libya and Afghanistan.

“I think you well understand that the war in Iraq is a separate conflict, an insurgency with terrorist elements and sectarian violence,” he said.

The resolution states that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a threat against global peace and security, and also declares the United States is committed to “the completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq.”

“It is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment” of troops, states the resolution, written by Republican leaders on the International Relations, Armed Services and intelligence committees.

Friday’s vote on the resolution could be used this fall, when the entire House is up for re-election and Democrats have high hopes for capturing at least the 15 seats needed to win back a majority.

Political observers note that both parties must walk a fine line on the war, since the majority of Americans now say it was a mistake, but lawmakers do not want to appear unsupportive of the troops in Iraq.

“Democrats are not in lock step on this issue,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

He said he thinks the war was “the right thing to do and we did it in the wrong way,” particularly by not sending enough troops. He anticipates some Democrats will argue the country was misled by President Bush and the United States should never have gone to Iraq in the first place.

The resolution also praises the formation of the Iraqi government and the writing of the constitution, and applauds the troops on their work and for killing terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The debate marks the first discussion on the war since November, when Rep. John P. Murtha, a decorated veteran, called for starting a six-month withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.

After the Pennsylvania Democrat’s call, Republicans pushed another resolution, which called for immediate pullout, to the floor for a vote in hopes to embarrass Democrats, who called the move “shameful.” It was rejected on a vote of 403-3 following a raucous debate.

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